Heart and Mind - March 2019
Heart and Mind - Dr. Lou Yock
One of the items that first attracted me to People’s Church, and continues to sustain me, is that line from our covenant, we “assume good intentions.” It stands out to me in bright neon letters and makes me smile every time I read it, and every time we recite it.
Assuming good intentions can be seen as rather naive, or even contrarian. It so contradicts the world’s (cynical?) wisdom. The phrase has two major points of contention that we may well be reminded of when we hear or say the words out and about. The first is that to “assume,” makes an “ass out of u and me.” The second is that when it comes to “good intentions,” we often hear that they pave the road to Hell. And yet, here we are, putting them together, assuming good intentions, and placing both elements into our covenant.
We do this because of our appreciation of humanism. We believe that in each other we will find the solutions we seek. We start from the perspective that we have confidence in one another to make an honest effort fo find resolutions to problems.
In a group of aspirational people such as ourselves, when we disagree on something, it is a matter of competing goods. We assume good intentions because we begin from the perspective that another person sees something good in an action or decision. We assume good intentions because we do not want to allow ourselves to think that someone is intentionally trying to hurt another person, or acting thoughtlessly.
Even if I am unsure of why another person has come to a conclusion that is different than mine, above all I will want to avoid assigning bad or thoughtless motivations. If our starting point is assuming good intentions, we will want to seek out and learn another person’s reasons and reasoning. Especially in contentious issues, what we will often discover is that when weighing the competing goods, in people of good will, one set of circumstances just edges out the other. At other times, I may have overlooked a consideration, or not weighted it enough.
Assuming good intentions takes confidence and faith in one another, not to mention an element of trust. I like that it is in our covenant, and is one of the things that I have always found outstanding about our congregation.