“Don’t Make Assumptions. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.” Don Miguel Ruiz
I recently joined a business women’s meetup group.
My first meeting happened to be their annual holiday celebration. No surprise, the leader thought it would be “fun” to have each person share their favorite Christmas tradition.
Thank pointy-eared elves, she started on the far side of the room, so lots of other women would share their stories before she called on me.
My first reaction was panic, followed quickly by a healthy dose of contempt. As the conga line of holiday cheer crept ever closer, I could only think, “What am I going to say?”
If you’ve read my blogs or books, you know that not having something to say is, well, let’s just say unheard of for me. Because I’m a Therapeutic Storyteller – I’d better have something to say, some story to share during this season of sharing.
But the fact is, I don’t have any warm and fuzzy Christmas traditions to share because I don’t “celebrate” the holidays.
And why I don’t isn’t anyone’s business, let alone the business of strangers.
“Who is she,” I thought, “to assume that everyone celebrates Christmas, that everyone has happy memories of Christmases past? Has it never occurred to her that not everyone celebrates the same things or even feels the same way about the holiday season?”
Ruiz also states unequivocally that “our whole dream of hell” is based on making assumptions and taking things personally. My whole dream of hell was reduced to the few minutes I waited for my turn. I wanted these people to like me, but I certainly wasn’t going to make any new BFFs if I sounded like Scrooge. On the other hand, Ruiz also says we need to be “impeccable” with our word, so I decided just to say what was true for me in this moment, which was, “I don’t celebrate the holidays.” But I didn’t want that revelation to fall to the floor like an unwanted fruitcake, so I added, “But I’d be more than happy to invite myself to your homes because it sounds like you’ll all be having great fun!”
Impeccably funny, wouldn’t you agree?
However, I continued to feel annoyed about this experience after the meeting, and I started questioning whether I should even join this group. After all, it was “obvious” that their lives weren’t anything like mine, and (or so I assumed) I probably won’t have much in common with them.
But as I thought about it later, it occurred to me that I was the one making assumptions. I assumed that everyone else was telling the truth and that they all had happy memories and endearing traditions. But what if that wasn’t true? What if, like me, some of them didn’t know what to say either, and, like me, were trying to come up with something that sounded warm and fuzzy before it was their turn?
Joshua Liebman, author of “Peace of Mind,” said, “Tolerance is the positive and cordial effort to understand another’s beliefs, practices, and habits without necessarily sharing or accepting them.”
Maybe it’s too much of a reach to transform my entire life. But, learning to be tolerant? That might be worth celebrating.