Three attitudes that will change your life: Assume the best
With a title like that, I'm delving into overpromising and under-delivering. After you read this series of three entries, you can be the judge of how helpful they've been. Each of these attitudes have been tried and tested in my own life this past year, and - every. single. time. - they've proven to elevate my perspective and enable me to embrace peace instead of stress in difficult situations.
Let's make a deal together. After you read each entry, I want to encourage you to verbally share the attitude with someone else and ask them to help you practice that attitude for a week. Repeat it to yourself when you're skeptical, critical, discouraged or downright persnickety. Then after a week of practice, please come back here and tell me what life has been like for you as you've chosen the path of this attitudinal expression. Deal? OK.
One caveat. As a follower of Jesus and a preacher, I could supply biblical foundations for each of these attitudes and explain how they reflect the character of Christ. I'm not going to, however. It would make the entries a bit longer, and if you're really interested, just leave a comment, and I'll respond there.
With that said, here we go!The first attitude that will change your life is:
Assume the best.
I first heard this expressionin a messageby Andy Stanley. (worth watching!) It was unremarkable when I first heard it. I don't know why. It just felt like "leadership principles." However, I found reason to practice it (I can't remember the circumstance) almost the next day. I discovered a radical game changer: When I assume the best, I am not enslaved to what I suppose are other's motives or opinions.
Here's what normally would happen. As a minister, you can imagine that I want to help people. My life is about people. As a result, I've learned to readpeople. Most of the time, I'm very discerning. However, there are other times that I project motives, attitudes and thoughts onto others that are not real.
So if someone were to not show up for church for a couple of weeks in a row, my thoughts would often go like this:
I wonder why they haven't been attending... The last time they were here, I preached on... hmmm... serving others. What did I say in that sermon that might have made them upset? Or is the recent decision we made to cut the donuts in half on Sunday morning? Did something happen in their small group?
You see what I'm doing? I am trying to figure out what's going on in someone's inner life, and when I do that, I almost always attend to assume the worst. I assume they're mad or upset. I assume they're avoiding me. Etc.
When I choose to assume the best, however, my thought life goes like this:
They've been so busy lately. They probably just needed a quiet Sunday at home to rest. Or they were probably traveling. With small kids, someone is more than likely sick. I'm positive that things are fine, and I'll see them again soon. I'll text them tomorrow to let them know I'm praying for them and ask if they need help with anything.
One mental choice has me on the defensive and if left to myself, I'll wind up thinking someone has become an ax murderer. The other mental choice assumes the best, and leaves me free to continue life without being enslaved by negative thinking or worry.
Our staff has adopted this motif in the last two years as well, and anytime we have a conversation about someone that we're concerned about which begins to devolve into projecting negative conclusions, inevitably someone will pipe up and say, "Let's assume the best."
It's truly incredible how freeing this mental posture is. I've passed this simple attitude posture along to others in different contexts - church, business, school - and every person who practices it shares with me what a significant blessing it becomes in their life.
It frees you.
It frees others.
And it allows you to focus on what matters instead of trying to "figure out" what's going on with someone else.
Now, here's the other sideof assuming the best. If you really do have a problem with me, you're going to need to communicate that to me. I am not going to try to read your mind. In fact, unless you share with me differently, I am probably going to be relating to you with positivity, joy and humor (like I do with everyone), and it may drive you crazy. You're assuming that your actions toward me should clue me in that you have a problem with me. ;)
But you now you know what I'm doing. I'm assuming the best. About you.