My False Assumption #1: It’s Your Fault!   4 comments

My wife speaks Chinese to me… at least that’s how it seems when I know the vocabulary she uses but cannot make sense of the message.  I love her and so I repeatedly, intently try to follow what she is saying.  When someone’s presuppositions are entirely different from mine, they make statements and assert conclusions that are meaningless to me, like: “A subjective cucumber chairs England with pneumonia.”   Where do you even begin to ask the questions?  And if it is completely coherent to Kimberly, she doesn’t know what needs explaining.

Me: “Do you mean a green cucumber that you eat?”

Kimberly: “Of course, what other kind is there?  Now do you understand?”

It has often taken me months and even years through scores or even hundreds of conversations to slowly grasp her meaning about relational things far more complex than cucumbers.  Over my head is not a light bulb popping on, but a fluorescent “tube light,” shadowed on both ends from overuse: blink… dark… blink blink-blink… dark… dark.  Presuppositions are stubborn things and lie hidden behind blind spots.

The issue I raised at the end of Response #4 actually has several entangled, powerful, and unnoticed assumptions.  I mentioned the first—that I felt responsible for others’ feelings.  If someone does not like what I am doing, then I should stop doing it unless I have an overriding reason to continue.  I am responsible for their feelings.  Your irritation is because of my behavior—direct cause and effect—and I am responsible to change my behavior so you can stop being irritated.  Your irritation is very reasonable; anyone would be irritated over this; only a saint would not be affected.  Your irritation is controlled by my behavior.

This is a society-wide assumption, so that if anyone says, “Stop doing that!  You are irritating me!” the only proper response is to say, “Sorry, I didn’t realize it was bothering you,” and to stop.  We have no sense of distinction between the statements “I am irritated,” and “you are irritating me” or “you are making me irritated.”  When we say the first, we really mean the last two; we are not taking responsibility for our own feelings of irritation, but are putting the responsibility squarely on the shoulders of the “misbehaving” person.  Of course, we distinguish between reasonable and unreasonable irritation, usually based on our own perception of social norms, but that must wait for another discussion.

I, for one, completely operated by this principle—my behavior caused your irritation.  It was so obvious and clear and universal a concept, and I never heard it refuted.  When Kimberly said, “I am not causing your irritation,” it made no sense to me at all.  “What do you mean you are not causing my irritation?!  When you bang the kitchen cupboards, it irritates me.  My irritation comes from the banging cupboards… where else would it come from?”  Can you understand my confusion?


Posted August 3, 2011 by janathangrace in Personal, thoughts

Tagged with , , ,

4 responses to “My False Assumption #1: It’s Your Fault!

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  1. You should try some of those thick felt bumpers for the cupboard issue. As far as figuring out woman speak, it just proves that God has a sense of humor.


  2. Work is the key to getting “there.” Appears to me relationships are built like a solid house. The more you work at it the better of a build you got too! 🙂

  3. Pingback: As I Was Saying… « Janathan Grace Reflections

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