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Posted by Lisa Lewis Koster - - 6 comments

Even though the cashier was beckoning me, I hesitated to switch to her lane. She was working the express check-out, while I was waiting with a cart full of groceries in the neighboring self-check line. With her assurance that the quantity of my items was not an issue, I switched to her lane and began unloading my cart. 

I jokingly said to her, "If someone gets in line behind me, I need you to vouch for me and explain that you invited me here." I no more than got the words out of my mouth when, just as I feared, someone with just a few items got in line behind me and gave me the "evil eye."

Recently I read a book called "Influencer." Its premise was to study human behavior and discover how we are motived, but it also reveals how often we misinterpret what's going on around us, especially when it concerns the actions of others. Most of these concepts weren't new to me, but they did give a label to things I had experienced yet could not quite pinpoint.

One of the behaviors the book revealed was our tendency to immediately assume the worst. Let's be honest. How many times have you gone into the express lane behind someone with more than 12 items and assumed they purposely went in front of you rather than wait in their designated lane? Did it ever occur to you that perhaps the person didn't notice it was an express lane because they were in a hurry or unfamiliar with the store? Or, as in my case, that the cashier invited that person and their full cart over?  

In the words of Solomon, "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." ~ Ecclesiastes 1:9. As with most - if not all - human behavior, assuming the worst is nothing new but has been going on since the dawn of time. 

I just finished reading the book of Joshua in my Bible reading plan and saw in the Israelites this same tendency to assume the worst. The tribes of Reuben, Gad and 1/2 the tribe of Menasseh had just helped the tribes on the west side of the Jordan conquer the residents of the land and had returned to their land east of the Jordan. 

When they came to Geliloth near the Jordan in the land of Canaan, the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh built an imposing altar there by the Jordan. And when the Israelites heard that they had built the altar on the border of Canaan at Geliloth near the Jordan on the Israelite side, the whole assembly of Israel gathered at Shiloh to go to war against them. ~ Joshua 22:10-12

What had the Israelites so upset? They assumed the worst.

As soon as they heard the eastern tribes built an altar they assumed it would be used to offer sacrifices, which would be contrary to God's commands. In their defense, they had just spent the last 40+ years learning that the sins of one can affect all, so they had a vested interest in the obedience of their brothers, or in this case, the lack thereof. 

Fortunately, the Israelites sent Eleazor the priest and a representative from each of the 10 western tribes to investigate before they attacked. Once they spoke to the eastern tribes, they discovered they had it all wrong:

“No! We did it for fear that some day your descendants might say to ours, ‘What do you have to do with the Lord, the God of Israel? The Lord has made the Jordan a boundary between us and you—you Reubenites and Gadites! You have no share in the Lord.’ So your descendants might cause ours to stop fearing the Lord.

“That is why we said, ‘Let us get ready and build an altar—but not for burnt offerings or sacrifices.’ On the contrary, it is to be a witness between us and you and the generations that follow, that we will worship the Lord at his sanctuary with our burnt offerings, sacrifices and fellowship offerings. Then in the future your descendants will not be able to say to ours, ‘You have no share in the Lord.’ ~ Joshua 22:24-27 

So you see, the eastern tribes didn't set up a new place to worship; they were erecting a monument to ensure their ability to offer sacrifices as God had mandated. And did you notice their motivation for building the altar? They also assumed the worst of their western brothers!

Knowing we have this tendency to assume the worst helps us understand why God commands we go to a person when we feel they've wronged us. It just may be that wasn't their intention at all.

Can you recall a time when you assumed the worst of someone? Try thinking of some reasons, apart from your first inclination, why they may have acted as they did. Why not give each other the benefit of the doubt?

Benefit of the Doubt: to believe something good about someone, rather than something bad, when you have the possiblity of doing either. (thefreedictionary.com) 

Have you ever been in a situation like the one I was in at the store, where you felt someone misinterpreted your intentions? What did they mistakenly think about you? Please leave a comment - I'd love to hear from you!


6 Responses so far.

  1. With discipline, you can change how you look at the world. It may not benefit anyone else but it does release you. However, I know a positive change spreads. Just not as quick as a bad mood. Take care.

  2. I am so glad you had a valid reason to get into that line. Never the less, you were correct at the thoughts of the person who came after you. - - Assuming the worst is one way to put it. Being critical and fault finding is so often the way we go instead of finding the good and the perfect - - even when it comes to the will of God. ♥
    Thank you for sharing your wonderful post with us here at “Tell Me a Story.”

  3. Unknown says:

    Lisa, How we look at the world, at situations, really does say a lot about our character. This is a great post. We always need to guard our thoughts from the little things that creep in. No matter what we might think we know, we never really know the why of anything - like why you were in the express lane. Only God does.

  4. I believe everything will change if we could change the way we used to see about these problems. Sometime we have created a massive problems in our minds. Believe in yourself is the best thing to do.

  5. Rachel R. says:

    I love your picture! Stores really should implement those. ;)

  6. This is very interesting, Lisa. I definitely struggle with assuming the worst about people. You've challenged me to think twice and give people the benefit of the doubt.

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