I sent a text message to a friend and didn’t get a response. Was she mad at me? A week went by before I sent another, with the same result. Surely she had something against me. Did I do something wrong? Or did she just forget to respond?
Isn’t it funny how quickly we jump to conclusions?
I decided to give my friend the benefit of the doubt, realizing that I could have sent the text at a time when she was unable to respond. When she became available, maybe she had forgotten about it. So I sent yet a third text at a different time of day. And this one got a response. The first three words were, “Sorry, I forgot.”
It wasn’t that many years ago that I would have bought the “surely she’s mad at me” mentality and avoided that friend until she made a move to prove otherwise. A simple miscommunication or misunderstanding would have escalated into a gigantic relational issue in my mind, when in reality, there was no issue. It was merely bad timing.
Have you ever found yourself in that boat, letting your mind get the best of you? Like the song I learned as a child, “Be careful little eyes what you see … ears what you hear … tongue what you say … hands what you do … feet where you go,” we also need to be careful what we think, what we feed our brain. More often than not, our initial thought might be the worst.
We also need to give people the benefit of the doubt. Yes, you will encounter times when you reach out and don’t get a response because someone really is mad at you. It happens. But other times, all is well and someone is just busy. Maybe they had an emergency they had to deal with and didn’t have time to respond. Maybe they were driving and couldn’t text or call. Maybe they forgot their phone that day. The possibilities are endless.
So the next time you find yourself in a situation like that, how will you react? Will you immediately jump to the worst? Or will you think the best? It is what you make it.
Life is full of seeming interruptions that come along and derail us from our plans. An illness or a surgery with a long recovery can quickly take us off course. An unexpected job loss or the death of a loved one can have the same effect, as can a simple unexpected call or visit.
When these types of surprises occur, it can be easy to get upset about them, thinking, “Oh no! Now I’m not going to finish what I started,” or, “I don’t have time for this.” But maybe they should stir us to do a gut check to assess what’s most important: the people or completing the task at hand?
Those who are people people have less issue switching gears when circumstances like these cross their paths than task-oriented people like me do. But I have learned over the years the importance of prioritizing people over tasks. And I’m thankful for that.
One day not too long ago, my daughter asked me to play a board game with her and her boyfriend. My initial thought was, “No, I want to do what I had planned.” But as I considered her proposal, I realized I was given an option I don’t often have because my daughter is gone a lot when I’m home and home when I’m gone.
My kids have grown up quickly, and now I wish I had taken better advantage of opportunities such as these I had while raising them. I don’t want to wish that about these times too, so I relented and played the game. And you know what? I made a fun connection with my daughter and her boyfriend.
When someone invites you to do something, it’s a privilege. It indicates their value of you and their desire to spend time with you. Do you take advantage of those privileges? Or do you let them pass you by? Even seemingly negative circumstances, such as health issues, can be rewarding with the right mindset.
For example, my husband had ankle surgery, leaving him in a state of dependence for more than two months. During that recovery period, I worked at lovingly serving him. Sure, it was trying at times, but it was also fulfilling. Because when we take our eyes off ourselves to focus on those around us, everybody benefits.
I don’t remember what I had planned that day that I didn’t get to. But I do remember having a fun, special time with my daughter.
Christian, wife, mother of 5, breast cancer survivor, marathon finisher, writer and editor, author of "Help! I'm a Science Project"