Assume Best Intentions

“Love is a lovely grace; ‘Love thinks no evil.’  (I Cor. xiii. 5).  It puts the best interpretation upon another’s words.  Love is a well-wisher, and it is rare to speak ill of him we wish well to.  Love is that which cements Christians together; it is the healer of division, and the hinderer of slander.”

— Thomas Watson, English Puritan pastor and author from the 17th century

A dear friend and book-loving GRC elder (read: Steve Hoogerhyde) shared the above quote with me recently. It reminded him of something I repeated the past year and a half: “Assume best intentions.”

A coworker said that to me minutes before we joined a challenging conference call. External consultants were not pulling their weight on a project and their management wasn’t holding them accountable. We were facing pressure internally to deliver and someone had to answer for it.

Hearing those three simple words changed my demeanor in an instant. Instead of making accusations and demanding answers, I opened the call by calmly, openly, and blamelessly sharing the situation at hand as we perceived it. We then listened to understand what happened from their perspective. What followed was some of the most honest and revealing conversation I’ve ever experienced in a work setting. We realized both sides were at fault for some incorrect assumptions and poor communication. We ended up getting the project back on track and, when it was all over, we exceeded management’s expectations. “Assume best intentions” has been my motto ever since.

Being a true, loving Christian, of all people, at all times, is a challenge for all of us. When faced with adversity, looming pressure, strong opposing opinions, etc., it can feel nearly impossible.

It could be unwanted parenting advice from an overbearing parent-in-law. It could be a fellow volunteer pushing back on an approach to community service. It could be a coworker stalling progress on an important project. It could be a longstanding disagreement on any given topic that has created a divide between families or friends.

The context never matters. What matters is that we go into these situations with open minds and open hearts. It’s in these moments where we extend grace to others as it has always been extended to us by God.

If you’ve taken this approach, share it with others and serve as an example. If this is your first time, please try it. Start off 2020 assuming best intentions. It can change how you see the path ahead through the storm.

Frank Martinez served on the Diaconate and Missions during his time at GRC.  He and his wife, Christin, will now make their home in California.