For years, my father has affectionately called me “Ass” instead of my Christian name, so when people would say to me, “You know what ‘assuming’ does, don’t you?”, I would always think, “Well, I’m already an ass, so I may as well make you one too.”
Assumption has never been a problem for me. Sometimes that gets me in trouble, but I think there is a lot to say on behalf of assuming.
I have been thinking a lot lately about what “culture” is and what is happening in the American “culture war”. This will not be an examination or analysis of that “war” and what, if anything, will “win” it for one side or the other. I don’t consider myself qualified to do that, nor do I think it a fruitful enterprise.
But I bring it up because I’ve come to realize that any “culture” is just a set of assumptions. When you walk into any given situation, what do you think is going to happen? If a workplace has a negative culture, the employees assume management is out to get them or coworkers are disloyal or mean or something along these lines. If a team has a winning culture, it means they walk into every game assuming they are going to win. They are surprised if they don’t. If a school has a caring culture, kids walk through the doors assuming people are concerned about them and want what’s best for them.
I think this applies to the culture war in our country as well, but again, I’m not going there.
I want to talk about the culture within my house. I want to talk about family culture.
I remember one of my good friends telling me about this interview he heard one time where three men were asked about their marriages. Each of the men had been married 50+ years, and when asked what the key to their success was, they each said something along the same lines.
They each said they were always able to find an excuse for their wife.
When she’s cranky, I assume she is tired, because she does work awfully hard around the house. When she snaps at me, I assume she is stressed, because I know she has that big work event coming up and wants to do well. When she is running late for Church or that party, I assume she just wants to look beautiful for me.
There’s always an excuse that you can make for the other. These men did it for the better part of a century.
Those are some powerful assumptions.
Now, I fail EVERY DAY in this exercise. I forget to think why my bride might be upset or tense or short, and instead I just get bothered that she is in that mood. But I have noticed that, as we grow together and make an effort to be better for each other, our assumptions are changing.
We’re starting to realize that this other person really does have my best interest in mind as often as they can. We are learning that we really do have each other’s back. We are finding that the other really is trying to get better, and get better for love’s sake.
This leads to a change in assumptions. And a change in culture.
Now, we’ve only been married three-ish years. There’s a lotta green between 3 and 50. But the point is, I think a lot of learning to love is learning to assume the best about the other, and if and when you find that things aren’t “the best”, you assume there’s a good reason that is so.
Based on the testimony of the aforementioned old dudes who had great marriages and what I am experiencing in bits and pieces in mine, I think there’s a lot of truth there. And I think examining our assumptions can help us form and change any culture, even on the political or social stage.
The Catholic Church gives us a list of assumptions that help guide all our interactions. We should assume that God is good and He has a plan for us, that man (including and especially ourselves!) is broken but capable of great goodness and beauty when united to Christ, and that we all have at least hints of that goodness and beauty within us at all times, even in our darkest moments, if we but have the eyes to see.
I think those are the assumptions we’re called to carry around with us at all times, ESPECIALLY in our own homes and with our own families. Maybe those assumptions will make us asses.
But I think they’re much more likely to make us saints.