(Part 3 of a 4-part series on The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz)

What’s that catch phrase again, the one where you break down the word assume into three parts? Something about, ‘to assume is to make an **s out of u and me’? Yep. That’s the one. Pardon the French.

When I was young and caught up in the novelty of cussing, I remember thinking this phrase was hilarious. I didn’t get the whole assumption thing. Now that I’m not young and I appreciate the value of communication, I realize the bold truth beneath the clever play on words. A truth that is far uglier than the humor implies.

When it comes to making assumptions, the 3rd agreement from Don Miguel’s, The Four Agreements, doing so dominates the world of imperfect communication. I rarely assume except on days beginning with the letters m, t, w, f, and s, in months with anywhere from 28-31 days, and in odd and even years.

Are you making assumptions about me yet? Thoughts like: she’s a smart aleck or she thinks she’s funny, but she’s not, or she must ask so many questions because she doesn’t have enough content.

See how fast assumptions whiz through our heads? I had to make assumptions about what I think you might be thinking based on what I might be thinking if reading these very words from your side of this screen.

Gah. The madness of it all.

Often times we think we know the absolute truth about things without knowing the absolute truth about things. In large part because we see through the lens of our personal experience, beliefs, emotions when looking at another’s actions, words, and deeds. Our inherent bias decides what we accept or reject before we even consider another point of view.

Our bent toward knowing it all continues when we fail to ask questions. And the drive to be right worsens when we ask questions, but don’t listen to the answers. Sometimes, we only ask the questions we know will have answers that will support what we already assume. And so on, and so forth to ludicrousy.

Gah. The blindness of it all.

Unless our communication style includes a consistent practice of ask and listen, chances are we lose the truth somewhere in translation. The muddied waters create a whole lot of misunderstanding, which breeds hurt, confusion, and mistrust to infinity of negative consequences. And humanity sighs.

If we think back to the 2nd agreement, ‘don’t take things personally,’ we can reverse engineer an old proverb: one thing all-about-me in the hand is not worth two assumptions about you in the bush. Yet we carry on doing both, wreaking havoc in each other’s nests.

And when we are talking about motherhood, when we don’t ask and listen with intent and purpose to our kids and instead base our reactions on assumptions, we can miss the undercurrent of the what, why, and how of their behaviors. It’s hard to build trust and cultivate healthy relationship this way.

Example (historical fictionish):

Johnny forgets to walk the dog again, so mom grounds him from Xbox for the evening. The next morning, he comes downstairs, copping a major attitude. If mom launches into assumption mode, the following story can formulate in her mind: he’s being rude because he’s still mad about losing game time, it’s his fault because he is lazy and forgetful about the dog, he must not care about the dog anymore even though he wanted him in the first place, etc.

The negative script makes mom the victim and child the villain before asking any questions–all based on scenarios that may or may not be true. If, in defense, mom verbalizes these accusations and they turn out to be false, then Johnny’s put on the defense, and the situation escalates.

A simple series of questions in response to the negative behavior, “Are you okay? Did something happen? Can I help?” could change the whole experience. What if the son’s attitude resulted from some hurtful texts he received from a friend the night before? What if he’s been avoiding taking the dog out because a neighboring kid bullies him?

We never know. And we will never know until we ask. And we will never understand until we listen. Until then, well, the whole mule debacle. Of which I have an enormous amount of practical experience under my belt.

Gah. The unsettling truth of it all.

Thank you, Grace. And for it never being too late to learn the value of counter-intuitiveness. Our kiddos need us to ask way more questions so we better understand their hearts. This world is not easy. Let’s do our best to make it easier.

Stay tuned as I delve into the 4th agreement next week. If you aren’t following along already, let’s connect so I can hear more about how not making assumptions is changing you and your family.

Praying you forward, crazy Mommas!




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Shelby is a Certified Emotional Intelligence Coach, Certified Meditation Teacher (CMT), author, freelance writer, speaker, and love enthusiast who is passionate about helping others ‘change the way they look at things so the things they look at change.’ She has numerous stories featured in the national publication, Guideposts. She also has over 160 featured articles at online publications, including Her View From Home, Scary Mommy, Parenting Teens & Tweens, For Every Mom, Love What Matters, and Today. Her book, How Are You Feeling, Momma? (You don’t need to say, “I’m fine.”), co-authored with her dear friend, Lisa Leshaw, recently won the 2020 Publisher’s Weekly Book Life Prize as the finalist in the Inspirational/Spiritual category.