Assumptions Make it Hard to Love

Assumptions Make it Hard to Love February 13, 2024

You may have encountered a few first-time parents who say something like this: “I was an expert on parenting until I became a parent.” People find some experiences easier to understand in theory rather than in practice. These assumptions make it hard to love others.

Life “in Theory”

It is a human temptation to think we understand various life situations from the outside. It is a human flaw if we do not learn over time that experiencing something personally differs significantly from observing or thinking about an experience.

What I find peculiar is that people who are not even exposed to a given experience claim to know more than those involved. For example, a white person in the United States may claim that there is no racism in the country. A man declares that women should not work outside of the house. A straight person says that homosexuality is a choice. A cisgender person says that a biological male cannot feel that she is feminine in gender.

Life “in Practice”

A person of color could also say that there is no racism in the United States, and she has more authority than a white person because of her experience. Can she speak though for every person of color in the country? A woman might claim that she belongs at home rather than in the workplace, but she does not represent every other woman.

Having a life experience is more complex than discussing situations in the abstract. Perhaps a family member or minister generalizes about a group of people. This person may have authority in many matters, but I would want to learn more about how that person came to that conclusion before I adopted it.

It is simpler to live life with “either/or” convictions rather than enter the messiness of reality. Sometimes, delving into an unfamiliar issue can lead to a lack of clarity rather than certainty.

“I do not experience life this way, therefore this other way is weird.” 

A teen girl wears a hoody with the word "love" laid over rainbow colors.
Rainbow colors highlight the diversity of the LGBTQ+ community. Listening to people who are different makes loving them easier. Thank you Rosemary Ketchum at

It can be tempting in certain situations to diminish other people’s experiences because they are unfamiliar, different, or make us uncomfortable.  People are different for so many reasons.

If a person fits into society’s more powerful groups, it can be tempting to downplay what a smaller number of people feel.  “If I have never wanted to have sex with a person of my gender then other people must be strange” “If I have never experienced racial discrimination then other people are making this up.”

We are not all the same. I am not particularly athletic. Other people, however, can hit a baseball out of the stadium, swim many laps of freestyle in record time, kick goals frequently, or return tennis serves at high speeds. Even those who are not the gold medal winners can do these things with incredible skill. Are these people weird? Did they choose to be athletic, suggesting that I too could compete at that level if I had tried? Or am I strange because I cannot do those things?

Assumptions Make it Hard to Love and Can Be an Escape

If I make assumptions about other people, then I do not need to examine myself. If that person is strange or weird, then I am not homophobic. If racism does not exist, then I, as a white person, do not have to think about it. If I think that everyone is male or female in gender as they were biological at birth, then I do not need to consider what it means to be transgender or non-binary.  I do not have to try to understand because these people just want attention, are weird and misguided, or for some other reason are wrong. (And I, of course, am right!)

Listen and Learn

It is not as if I have never made any assumptions myself. I have never been uncertain that racism is real, living in Maryland. I did not recognize sexism until I was older, having attended all-girls schools from seventh through 12th grades.

I remember when I first became aware of people who are transgender, I did not know what to think. My mind was blank. I was lucky, I think, because a high school friend’s child was born a biological male but at about age 2 wanted to wear dresses. In middle school, she introduced herself as female in gender. I have tried to read more about transgender children, especially. One woman prayed every night as a child that she would be a girl when she woke up. For parents who accept their children as they are, it seems natural. What is not natural, however, is the response their family gets from some other adults.

I am not claiming any expertise in issues of sexual identity, racism, or sexism. Making assumptions about other people based only on my own experience, Church teachings, stereotypes, and so on has little relevance. God is love and has created each person with love. God does not ask me to completely understand every other person, but only to love others as they are. Listening and learning have helped me do that better. Assumptions make it hard to love.

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