After working through this chapter with others I felt the importance of writing a quick blog to encourage you that this is an area that has caused huge issues in the relationships I have had with others. By understanding both the damage caused by thinking I knew what others were thinking, because I have not asked them, and acting on this information I was actually disobeying the ninth commandment which is "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour" Exodus 20:16. When I make an assumption about someone who has hurt or disappointed me without confirming it, I have believed a lie about this person in my head. As I have not checked it out with them it is very possible that I have been believing something that is actually untrue. Sadly, this assumption which is often false is passed on to others and destroys the reputation of this person.
This is the thing that scared me the most about this. When I have left reality for a mental creation for my own I have lived in a counterfeit world of my making. When thinking about this and my relationship with God, I could actually be excluding God from my life as He does not exist out of reality and truth. My relationships have been wrecked or damaged through the endless confusion and conflict created through the reading of other people's minds without asking them what they are thinking. In Mathew 7:1-5 Jesus talks about not taking on the role of judging others.
By learning two simple skills - stopping mind reading and clarifying expectations - I have started the journey of learning to prevent large scale misunderstandings in the places I have relationships with others. By having skills in this area I can love others well and eliminate untold numbers of conflicts in the relationships I have with others. By learning these skills I can grow as a disciple of Jesus.
The book of Proverbs has a number of verses that tell us not to jump to conclusions but have restraint in the way we relate to others. It shows a huge difference between a fool and a person with a wise discerning heart. Here are some verses:-
Senseless people find no pleasure in acquiring true wisdom,
for all they want to do is impress you with what they know. Proverbs 18:2 (TPT)
Listen before you speak,
for to speak before you’ve heard the facts will bring humiliation. Proverbs 18:13 (TPT)
The spiritually hungry are always ready to learn more,
for their hearts are eager to discover new truths. Proverbs 18:15 (TPT)
There are two sides to every story.
The first one to speak sounds true until you hear the other side
and they set the record straight.Proverbs 18:17 (TPT)
How To Stop Mind Reading
When we want to stop mind reading we want to clarify what the other person is thinking instead of making assumptions. The key principle is that I can never assume what a person is thinking or feeling. To stop reading I can:-
Ask permission to read their mind (or check out an assumption you have). eg: "Bob, do I have permission to read your mind?" or ""Can I check out an assumption that I have?"
Say, "I think you think ..... Is that correct?" (or ("I am wondering .... Is that correct?") eg: "Bob, I think you think that I need to send a text back to you straight away when you text me. Is this true?" or "I think that you think that I need to send a text back within 30 minutes after you send me a text. Is this true?
How To Clarify Expectations
This skill is similar to the Stop Mind Reading skill. It eliminates pain, confusion and disappointment in relationships. The purpose is to recognise whether certain expectations we have are valid or4 not and to clarify our expectations with others. Our expectations come from so many sources including families, cultures, TV, fairy tales and the list goes on.
To begin with, our expectations can be valid or invalid. To have expectations that are valid there are four questions we need to ask:-
Conscious: Am I aware of my expectation
Realistic: Is there evidence to support that this expectation is reasonable. Either it has been done in the past or the person has the capacity and willingness to do it.
Spoken: I have expressed the expectation clearly.
Agreed Upon: The other person has agreed to the expectation by saying "yes".
It is essential that you understand that an expectation can only be valid when it is mutually agreed upon. When in a child/parent relationship or a marriage relationship then you could assume that these expectations are understood or shared.
The challenge now is to ask God where in my life I have expectations or where I have made assumptions of others that I need to clarify. I need to look at work, family and friendships. By asking God to reveal the expectations that I have of someone that needs clarification to grow in my relationship with this person, I can start this exciting journey.
This is extremely challenging but rewarding as you go on the journey of not assuming any more that you know what other people are thinking and then acting on this assumption. Developing skills to find out what others are thinking and knowing your expectations and being able to communicate and agree on these with those around you will transform your ability to walk in love and have the deep relationships God has made you have.
To obtain a copy of Chapter 1 of the workbook click HERE. (Taking a Community Temperature Reading)