Assuming the Worst
I teach classes on de-escalation and self-defense. One of the points I try to hammer home to people in my classes is to not assume the worst in someone just because they argue with you. Most of the people I teach have first-hand experience with helping and serving people of all backgrounds, from all different cultures. And people in the business of interacting with people from all walks of life, especially in stressful conditions, tend to become jaded, de-sensitized to others' feelings sometimes, and even cynical.
But one of the things I try to help people understand, or even realize again for the first time in a while - is that if we assume the worst in someone, and assume that they aren't going to be willing to listen to us, then they might just meet our assumptions. But if we give someone the benefit of the doubt upon initial interaction, and we open ears and hearts to listen, maybe they will surprise us.
I bring this up because in church today, the idea of a hierarchy of needs was mentioned, and it turns out that the original thoughts behind this hierarchy left God out of the equation. However, there are still some valid points with regard to what makes every person tick. The idea that every single human on Earth needs to feel validated, appreciated, and understood speaks volumes. And if we, as Christians, can embrace the same principles, we can use it to reach others for Christ.
I try to show this very concept in my novel, Misguided. In the novel, one Christian in the novel is misguided by vengeance. He assumes the worst in all Muslims because some radical Muslims are responsible for the death of his wife and daughter. He takes on a delusional mission to wipe out Muslim imams in hopes that it spurs forth the revelation of Christ's second coming. It is safe to say his assumptions actually lead him to worse circumstances than he had when he started out.
Compare that approach to the approach taken by he hero of my novel series, John Knox. Knox learns soon after the first murders by the misguided assassin that he will be working with another investigator who is of Muslim faith. It would be easy for Knox to assume the worst in this Muslim cohort because of other Muslims who have killed other people in the name of Allah and his prophet...but thanks to his upbringing, and another set of eyes on the case, the Muslim investigator is given the benefit of the doubt. And of course this enables the author of the novel to write even more stories :)
Now let's take this approach in our daily walk with Christ. What if I encounter someone who I just know needs Jesus in their life? What if I just know that if I bring up the idea of Jesus around them, they'll just shun me away and never talk to me again? Then my approach to that person was for nothing...
or was it?
See, if I just go with that assumption, then I might be right. But what if I roll the dice, take that chance, and tell the person what I believe anyway? Isn't God the one who truly decides how that person's heart will respond anyway? And didn't He put me in that position to reach that person at that particular time anyway? Even if all you do is plant a seed, if by chance you get shunned immediately for reaching out, that person still knows a possible source to come to if they ever have a change of heart or ever stop to think about what you had to say to them.
This could hold true to all of our encounters with other people...loved ones, strangers, friends, co-workers, inmates, vagrants, prostitutes, criminals...and yes, even presidents. I know I hold very strong stands in my beliefs and ideas...and everyone pretty much knows where I stand. But that doesn't mean that as soon as someone disagrees with me and offers a different opinion, that I need to just assume it's not worth talking to that person. We are all different; we all interpret many things differently. But there is one truth that I believe, and that is that God sent His son to die for EVERYONE who chooses to believe. So as long as there is the tiniest amount of hope that someone who disagrees with me can still discover that truth, I need to give them the benefit of the doubt.