Why You Should Always Assume Positive Intent
- Dr. David B. Hawkins The Marriage Recovery Center
- 2016 16 Aug
Some people are so easily offended. Being around them is an exercise in walking on eggshells. Not hurting their feelings becomes a day in, day out practice to maintain relative serenity. Yet, for all the effort, the innocent party will be unable to steer clear of offending their mate.
I watched in amazement as Susan reacted yet again to her husband’s innocent comment. Having made an innocuous statement, free from any criticism, he looked helplessly to me to save him.
“You’re always attacking the way I am,” she said critically.
Jarad looked to me for help.
“I was only asking you to be careful when talking to our daughter,” he said. “I wasn’t attacking the way you parent.”
“Yes, you were,” she said, tears coming to her eyes. “You’ve always been critical of my parenting.”
“I think you are a wonderful mother,” he said. “I think you’re incredible. I was simply suggesting we both be careful not to indulge her. She can be so manipulative.”
“You don’t think I know that?” she asked, pointing a finger at him.
With that, Jarad turned away and looked out my window. He could not dissuade his wife from her entrenched point of view that he was critical of her parenting. Further exploration revealed that his wife felt threatened in many areas of their relationship.
“I would like you to assume I have good motives,” Jarad pleaded. “Please see me as having your back. I don’t want to hurt you. I don’t want you to fear my reactions. I think the best about you.”
As I watched this scene unfold again and again, I pondered how I would confront Susan. Clearly she was part of a huge population of people who take slights personally. Often raw with emotion, and having a history of wounds, they see themselves as victims when no insult was intended and often not occurring.
As I reflected on what to do, I considered some facts we know about easily offended people:
- They are often immature
- They are often self-centered
- They fail to see the other’s point of view
- They have a history of unhealed wounds
- They assume negative motives
- They see themselves unusually virtuous
- They are judgmental
- They fail to accept themselves or others
These are some of the issues facing the easily offended person. Scripture has much to say on this topic and reminds us not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought, and in fact to consider others even higher. (Philippians 2:3)
Here are some additional tools if you find yourself easily offended:
First, practice seeing another’s point of view. Someone has said there would no war or conflict if we fully understood each other. The easily offended person must practice seeing the perspective of others. They must walk in another’s shoes and empathize with them. When doing so, our wounds diminish.
Second, practice seeing the best motives of another. Instead of seeing the other in the worst possible light, assume the other has good motives. Assume, even if you’re wrong, that no one is trying to hurt you. This benevolent attitude will help you feel better and assist you in becoming more caring.
Third, practice humility. Humility is the great elixir of life. Being humble helps us not to take ourselves so seriously. We learn to laugh at our quirks. We accept our imperfections. We realize we will make mistakes, as will others. Easy does it.
Fourth, practice acceptance. Consider others for who they are, warts and all. Practice seeing others as human, just like you. Let go of judgments. Yank the plank out of your eye before grabbing at the speck in another’s eyes (Matthew 7:5). Even if someone hurts your feelings, forgive them. It is very unlikely they intended to do so.
Finally, practice caring for others. Love means extending yourself for the welfare of others. Love and being easily offended rarely go together. Get out of your narrow, self-protective world and care for others. Really care for them and notice how your self-centeredness and wounds diminish.
Are you easily offended? Would you like help in learning more about maturing in marriage? We can help. Please send responses to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and also read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website. You’ll find videos and podcasts on emotionally destructive marriages, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage.
Publication date: August 16, 2016