On Being Presumptuous

After my last article, Tim Fall emailed me and was all, “Hey, I can’t help but notice that you seem to be feeling ‘behind’ on your blog…so how about I write a guest post?”  And then I was like, “YES!  THANK YOU!  My kids seem to think that I should, like, be a mom or something these days.  It’s weird.”*  And then like magic,  I had a post in my inbox to share with you guys.  Wonderful. 

I hope to get back to writing regularly soon, mainly because I have approximately 1,214 blog posts in my head, and when I get to 1,300, my brain explodes.  Hopefully that won’t happen, but in the meantime, enjoy this great piece from my friend, Tim.

*Disclaimer:  That might not have been exactly how the conversation went.

A Call from the Principal

Years ago I got an unexpected call at work from my son’s Junior High principal. Not a good thing under most circumstance: this was no exception to the rule. She wanted to tell me that my son might be upset, and she called to let me know immediately rather than learn about it when I came home from work.

It turns out she had called him to her office to reprimand him. She said he was circulating an inappropriate petition concerning one of his teachers. I started to get an idea of the problem. He’d told us a few days before that some of the students were concerned with how this teacher was handling the class, and we had talked about it a bit in the days leading up to this phone call.

His idea of how best to handle it was to put the problem in writing and see if enough kids agreed so that he could then talk to her about it. He didn’t want to bother bringing it up with her if not many kids were bothered by it. I didn’t know the details of his plan, but the general topic of a petition came up.

I listened incredulously as the principal told me that once she found out about it, she called him out of class and into her office. I listened in sorrow as she described him getting upset and teary at being reprimanded (he’d never been called to the Principal’s office for anything!). I listened in disbelief as she told me her main concern was for the teacher – the TEACHER – as she might get her feelings hurt at the petition being circulated. I did not hear her say anything about students handling concerns in a creative and constructive manner. I did not hear her say she’d spent time listening to my son explain his intentions, or an explanation of the root of the concern itself. Nothing. The way she explained it to me, this conversation in her office was pretty one-sided. She spoke. My son got choked up.

I said thanks, ended the conversation as quickly as I could, and prayed for my son.

The Bike Ride to Suspension

It’s been a while since I thought of that phone call. Then I read this article today. A group of High School Seniors in Michigan decided to stage a massive bike ride to school as their Senior prank on the last day of classes. Sounds innocent enough, constructive and creative even, right? Not to the principal. She told all sixty-four participants it was a dangerous stunt: traffic could have snarled and they might have been injured – “your brains could have ended up splattered,” she told them. She would not countenance it! They were prohibited from Senior activities for the rest of the day and sent home. Some even missed a final exam.

Turns out, the Seniors had more on the ball than she gave them credit for. They had contacted the authorities ahead of time to take care of safety concerns and rode with a police escort. Not only that, the Mayor even accompanied the students on their route to school that morning. The only ones not in the know were the school officials, but letting them in on it would have defeated the purpose of a rather benign Senior prank, of course.

Cooler heads eventually prevailed. The suspension was lifted, teachers offered make-up tests, and the school district issued an apology complete with a statement from the Principal.

Waiting for All the Evidence to Come In

Jumping to conclusions is rarely a good practice – even if it is out of concern for the feelings of a Junior High School teacher or the safety of a few dozen graduating Seniors. It really doesn’t work at my job.

One thing I tell jurors repeatedly throughout trial is not to form their final opinions or conclusions, but to wait until all the evidence is in and then deliberate with all the other jurors in order to reach a verdict. In fact, this admonition has been adopted into a formal written jury instruction that applies in all trials in my state. The wisdom underlying it goes back thousands of years.

            Through presumption comes nothing but strife, but with those who receive counsel is wisdom. (Proverbs 13:12.)

Don’t presume. Talk things over with others. Then come to a reasoned conclusion. It’s so simple, right?

I don’t know about you, but I see people around me and jump to conclusions all the time, thinking I know what’s going on in their lives. But I don’t. That might hurt only me except there are times when I act on this utter lack of knowledge, this lack of reasoned consideration. That can lead to mistakes, big mistakes. So what should I do?

God’s wisdom still applies: don’t presume; get the facts; find someone to talk things over with. It’s simple, right?

And share your experiences here in the comments. None of us want to presume we have all the answers!

[Biography: Tim is a California native who changed his major three times, colleges four times, and took six years to get a Bachelor’s degree in a subject he’s never been called on to use professionally. Married for over 24 years with two kids (one in college; one just graduated, woo-hoo!) his family is constant evidence of God’s abundant blessings in his life. He and his wife live in Northern California.]

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12 responses to this post.

  1. Thanks, Tim! One area where I have found myself being presumptuous is when I think about other people’s capabilities. Living in community, for example, I sometimes struggle with assuming that others can and should do more. Maybe that is the case, but truly, I often have no idea what people have on their plates, and what is within their realm of capabilities. One thing that has helped me is when I am in the situation where I have a lot of stuff on my plate (usually family illnesses and obligations) that prevents me from being as involved with church as I want. In those times, I find myself sincerely hoping that no one is judging me, since from the outside, they can’t see all that is going on. Those experiences teach me not to be so quick to jump to the same conclusions about others.

    Reply

    • Posted by Tim on May 25, 2012 at 9:38 am

      “I often have no idea what people have on their plates, and what is within their realm of capabilities.” Exactly, Kim. You captured in a single sentence the point of my whole article!

      That feeling you’re talking about, the one where we know that we are doing all we can but wonder if others might expect more of us? I finally got to where I don’t care if they get it or not. I do what I do, God knows that I’m doing it, and the rest just isn’t my concern any longer. Proverbs 56:11 really comes in handy at those times: “In God I trust and am not afraid. What can man do to me?” (Except in these situations I paraphrase the second sentence to read “Why should I care what they think?”)

      Tim

      P.S. Re your disclaimer of the conversation: here’s how I remember it –
      Tim: Duuuuuuuh
      Kim: A guest article? Yes, that would be lovely!
      Tim: Duuuuuuuh … [drooling on keyboard] … [send]
      Kim: Thank you so much for … er … trying your best. E for Effort, you know. [Post]

      Reply

  2. It’s so easy to presume the worst with kids too, isn’t it? I’m always jumping to conclusions before all the evidence is in. Thank you for the reminder. And I am so grateful to have a Savior who already knew the damning evidence against me, and stepped in on my behalf while I was still in my sins.

    Kim, I wonder how many blog posts are in Tim’s head?

    Reply

    • Posted by Tim on May 25, 2012 at 11:19 am

      The evidence is damning, and it’s all in – past, present and future – as far as God’s knowledge of us goes. Grace and mercy are wonderful. It’s like that Relient K quote I like so much, “The beauty of grace is that it makes life unfair.”

      Tim

      P.S. How many blog posts can fit in my head? Not many, because it gets crowded in that little space. That’s why I’m always sending them to you folks, to make room for new ones!

      Reply

  3. Posted by bekster081305 on May 25, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Great thoughts, Tim. This type of thing makes me so angry (especially when I witness it happening to others)–though, unfortunately, I’m sure I do the same thing. I experienced a “defining moment” in my life about this when I was a teenager. I was sitting next to my 3- or 4-year-old niece and her friend during church service. The two of them were coloring and being generally quiet and well-behaved. Suddenly, the friend got down off of the pew and started messing around with something on the ground. Her mom started freaking out and demanding that the girl sit down. However, I saw the whole thing and I knew that the girl only got down on the ground to pick up the crayon she had dropped. She was already beginning to climb back up when her mom started yelling at her. In the grand scheme of things, this was a pretty minor event, but I have always remembered it as an example not to make assumptions about people’s actions. I don’t always apply this as I should, but I try.

    Reply

    • Posted by Tim on May 25, 2012 at 11:27 am

      Your experience with the pre-schoolers is so typical of how grown-ups (people who should know better, right?) can be some of the worst offenders when it comes to jumping to conclusions, Becky. I think one thing I’ll really enjoy about becoming more Christ-like (among many, of course) is that Jesus never jumps to conclusions!

      Tim

      Reply

  4. Great post, Tim–I can’t believe that about the bikes! I hope your son has recovered. That has to be so hard. (I know I would take it hard, and I”m a grown-up!)

    Also, your bio never fails to crack me up every time I read it.

    Reply

    • Thanks Anne. I’m so glad you could come over to check out Kim’s great blog here.

      Kyle is the one who just graduated college, so he’s got to be over it by now. There are no more school administrators for him to deal with!

      Tim

      Reply

  5. It is typical for many in power to do what they can to protect the status quo, isn’t it? The principal’s response was (sadly) predictable. Your son was blessed to have parents willing to go beyond what the authority figure had to say in order to learn about his reasoning for the petition. By doing so, you and your wife avoided the sin of presumption, and gave your son a greater gift – the gift of believing in his character.

    Thanks for your wise words, Tim.

    Reply

    • Posted by Tim on May 27, 2012 at 9:51 am

      Thanks Michelle. Any parental wisdom we had was purely by God’s grace. We’re still GREATLY in need of it!

      Tim

      Reply

  6. Posted by Victoria / Justice Pirate on May 27, 2012 at 8:18 am

    Did the principal ever apologize to your son? Just wondering about the outcome of that past event. I am sorry that the principal didn’t want to understand the children (your son especially) at all.

    That is terrible that they wouldn’t even listen to the kids at first who did their “prank”. I had a situation occur when I was 12 years old and got in trouble for something that was a misunderstanding. I had my pastor sit me down with my parents in their living room and reprimand me and he told my dad off for being a bad father (which was true) but I got the brunt of the problem. . .and when I would try to explain my side, they’d silence me and so to this day I feel like this was unsettled. I still haven’t even explained what really happened to my mom. I was innocent.

    I think it is very disappointing when people don’t try to understand and ask questions!!!! When I was in high school, I was in a training session for a program for a few weeks as a “peer mediator”. Every so often I’d get called throughout the rest of the school year to settle disputes. The Peer Mediators were told that when we settled disputes between younger students, we’d have to ask questions to both parties (most of them were a set list that I thought sounded ridiculous, so I asked my own). If we didn’t do that, we’d become bias and it would be awful. I don’t understand why people speculate without hearing people out. This was a very well written article and I loved how you tied in Proverbs 13:12 into it!

    Reply

    • Posted by Tim on May 27, 2012 at 9:55 am

      I’m so glad you stopped by, Victoria. The principal never mentioned it to him again that I know of, but Kyle got closure through how we handled it as a family I think.

      The process you were taught as a peer counselor is a type of due process, which we are required to follow in court too. Basic due process is defined as “notice and an opportunity to be heard”, so everyone involved is given a chance to have their say. Just following such basic procedures works wonders in resolving disputes!

      Tim

      Reply

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