“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in”
– Issac Asimov (1920-1992), American science-fiction writer
Although we need to trust ourselves and follow our heart, still the above examples reveal that we have sensory limitations, and our assumptions could be wrong. Therefore it pays to periodically take inventory of our own assumptions. It could help us save some of our relationships.
The strength to face our own decisions and assumptions requires courage and humility. And there is no way we can circumvent these sacred principles and still have healthy relationships with self and others.
Maharaj Parikshit, the emperor who ruled the planet five thousand years ago had this humility. Travelling alone on a hunting expedition, he was tired and thirsty as he approached a hermitage for shelter. When he saw the sage of the ashram in a meditative trance, and not extend hospitality to the king, he assumed the sage was feigning it. Angry, he garlanded the sage with a dead snake and left in a huff. Soon however, he realized his mistake and felt sorry. He accepted his assumption about a great sage was wrong. Yet the young son of the sage, not acknowledging the repentant king, assumed the emperor was haughty. The boy declared the emperor deserved to die, and cursed him. Again Parikshit showed his true character and passed the test by cheerfully welcoming the curse, saying he deserved it for having wrongly offended a pure sage.
It’s interesting to note that although the king had made wrong assumptions, yet his internal mood of humility makes him a glorious character in Vedic history. The king was righteous and always protected his citizens. He had even seen God when he was just in the womb of his mother, and always took the right decisions. Yet, he too made a mistake, which although an arrangement of the Lord to teach us many lessons, nevertheless was a result of wrong assumption. When powerful men could make wrong assumptions, what to speak of lesser mortals? At an accident site, if there are three eye-witnesses, each one of them would offer a different version of what happened, based on their own perception and assumptions.
This is a sobering reminder to all who pride in their ability to judge things expertly. We do need to make assumptions and judge rightly to help us achieve success at our profession. Still the truth is even if you have made the right assumptions five straight times, the sixth time you could be wrong. As someone said, “If you always assume, remember you’d make an ass of you and me- that’s assume”. Therefore humble self-examination keeps us safe. It would help us not only achieve success at the professional level, it would also sustain relationships.
Often what we need to do is simply ask questions. But because we lack the courage to ask, we assume. And then we replace communication with assumption, and if we hear or don’t hear, or others tell us or not, we make assumptions all the time. And all of this is simply because we lack the basic humility to ask questions. Our relationships would flourish if we set our own house of assumptions in order, and humbly seek clarifications. The American actor Henry Winkler said, “Assumptions are the termites of relationships”
A humble service attitude and a culture of prayer helps us also get aerial view to our own motivations. Our mind, in its attempt to protect the false ego, could get wily and ruthless, and cause us more damage than we assume. At the end of the day it’s only humility that can save us from our ego and mind.