University of Central Florida
The one who searches for what is good finds favor, but if someone looks for trouble it will come to him. (Proverbs 11:27)
I received news one evening that a good friend of my father’s had died rather unexpectedly. As soon as I heard the news, I called my dad to check on him. I then texted him the morning of the funeral with plans to call him afterward. That same day, my older sister texted my little sister and me the following statement: Also, y’all please call dad later today just to chat. He’s not showing it, but his friend’s funeral was just now and he looked like he was struggling inside. He would love to hear how y’all are doing.
I was taken aback by the text at first. The way I read it, it sounded like she was calling us out for not contacting my dad earlier. I basically interpreted the message as, “Dad just lost a friend and would love to hear from you. Please call him later since you haven’t reached out yet.” I almost responded with something biting, but I took a second to re-read the text again assuming my sister’s best intentions.
My graduate school advisor had a mantra for just this occasion: “assume the best first.”
She shared this mantra with me and my fellow graduate teaching assistants as a way to remember to be gracious towards our students. When they’re late? Assume the best first – they probably had car trouble or their doctor’s appointment ran late. When they email an excuse? Assume the best first – they’re probably telling the truth. When they ask for special considerations? Assume the best first – something unexpected probably happened to them. The point is to seek the good in our students before we assume they are lying or lazy or unprofessional. That will help keep our interactions with them grace-filled.
This mantra doesn’t just apply to a college classroom, though, but to any interpersonal interaction. It can be easy to assume negative things about those who we’ve had negative interactions with in the past. But just like the proverb says, if we seek what is good [in others] we will find it. If we seek the best in others first, we will see the good in them before anything bad. However, the reverse is also true. If we seek the worst in others, that’s what we’ll find first. This proverb challenges us to seek the good instead of the trouble.
Reflection: How can I “assume the best first” in my interactions with others this week? How can I avoid seeking the worst in others?
Today’s Challenge: Choose a specific person whom you may not get along with very well or someone with whom you never have a pleasant interaction. Spend time reframing what you assume about that person and try turning those assumptions into positive thoughts. Then, the next time you interact with them, go into the conversation with the positive assumptions first.