If you follow the chatter around here, you might have noticed that a few of us were slated to go on a trip to Israel next month. As of now, that trip has shifted from “going in 4 weeks” to “indefinitely postponed.” This post is to do a couple of things.
First, whine about not going. WAH! I wanted to go. Now it won’t happen when I thought it would. I am disappointed and will get over it. Probably when I eat a big bacon cheeseburger when I would have been in Israel, where such dining is just not kosher.
Second, though, and more importantly, I think the situation serves as a decent neutral illustration for what we mean in terms of “assuming the best” of individuals and their statements. We can parse this one and nobody be offended that we are picking on how a Calvinist responded to a Hobbesist or a Garfieldian to an Odian. (Comic strips, people.)
Here is the first item to take apart: the trip is “postponed indefinitely, with hopes to get it together by the end of the year.” How do we take this line? I can take it a couple of ways. First, I could be pessimistic. Perhaps the author is really meaning that the trip is canceled, but wants to use “postponed” to make it sound better. This means he is either nice or nefarious, but either way he’s dishonest. The other option is to accept the line at face value: there are plans to get this back together and go later. The individual handling the trip is either going to be treated like he is covering up or treated like he is honest. Which will I choose?
Because it’s my choice how I respond to him the next time we interact. If I choose to assume the worst, I will greet him with suspicion. I will disdain anything else that proceeds from him, and will likely miss out on good fellowship opportunities. Or, I can assume the best, greet him with trust, and wait for better times.
Which I choose has no effect on the organizer himself: it only impacts my relationship. Which should I do?
On to the next item: the letter detailed specific reasons why the trip is postponed. They are specific, and include a detailing of efforts to navigate the roadblocks to avoid the postponement. But are they true?
After all, the only external link available is buried behind a pay-wall and I am not going to pay to get confirmation. Can I actually trust the individual to tell me the truth?
Perhaps he’s covering up: he found out that we are bloggers and does not want us to go, because he hates bloggers. Maybe it’s an anti-Calvinist move, and he wants to cut the Calvinists out of the trip. It could be pro-Calvinist, and he wants to cut out those of us who are not ardent 5-pointers. Perhaps he’s saving the trip to take with graduates from the right seminary or with the right connections. I could posit possible conspiracy theories all night, and not a one of them could be falsifiable: you would never prove me wrong. Even the denial of the existence of a conspiracy can be taken as the evidence of one.
Or, I can trust that I am being told the truth, that nothing sneaky is happening, and go forward. Like with the response to “postponed,” this will color all of my interactions with the people involved. Are they going without me? Maybe Dave’s disappointment is fake, he’s really going, but they’ve cut me out.
Are they out to get me?
What benefits are seen by the Kingdom of God, the work of Baptist Christians, or the discipleship of Doug if I spend my time assuming that no one is being honest?
We have a responsibility to the Truth, and we should not ever tolerate liars or those who are intentionally deceptive in Christian leadership roles. That we have done so in the past and sometimes continue to do so deserves its own post, but that is not truly at stake here.
Instead, this is: How do you receive communication from others? Do you assume the worst? Or can you assume the best?
An offer of help? Can it be without strings? Take the offer if you need it, and go forward.
A change of plans? Life happens that way.
We would be well served to stop assuming the worst of those who have never done us harm. Look for the warning signs, true, but a little trust will go a long way to heal the wounds in our churches, our fellowship of Baptists, and the Universal Church as a whole.
How you receive what others say will affect you far longer than what they actually say. Consider it and measure it.