It’s a dance I’ve done a million times, both as a leader and a follower. But I’m tired of this waltz. And frankly, I won’t do it anymore.
Because I don’t want to read your mind.
I write not out of passive-aggressiveness. No bitterness or frustration is being harbored toward the people in my life.
What I am harboring, though, is a deep-soul exhaustion at reading between the lines.
I easily soak up the information and emotions from people around me. Which means I can often get a sense for what’s going on in someone’s heart and mind quickly.
This makes it easy for me to read between the lines when communicating with people.
But I’m tired of it. Really very tired.
I’ve spent so much of my life trying to understand what people were not saying. Anticipating their moods and thoughts. Responding to requests that hadn’t even been made.
It can be a gift, yes. But it can also be a curse.
Because in reading between the lines, I sometimes get it wrong. I can THINK I know what the other person wants or is thinking, and respond to that. And I am not always right.
I’m trying to change.
Instead of assuming I know what people are thinking and responding to that, I ask questions. I clarify.
It’s much less exhausting. Plus, it stops me from jumping to conclusions about someone else’s thoughts or motives.
Sometimes I think this is what Jesus meant when he talked about judgment in Matthew 7:1-6. So many people use that verse when others confront them. But really, I don’t think it has anything to do with that.
Because when you look closely, these verses aren’t talking about someone judging you. They’re talking about us judging other people! Jesus says to exercise extreme caution when judging. He says that before we do, we should look at the plank in our own eye.
For myself, part of that plank is my perception. How I receive the words and thoughts of others is filtered through 31 years of my life with my upbringing and my experiences–all of which are different than the person next to me.
So if I always rely on my intuition to tell me what others are thinking when they say or do certain things, I will make false judgments. And I will also lose my mind!
It’s absolutely important to be considerate of others in what you do and say. When done right, it is a joy to respond to unspoken needs for people that I love.
But I won’t be a slave to the unspoken. I won’t live my life responding to unvoiced requests or possible slights or subtle manipulations.
I won’t read your mind in order to maintain a relationship. It’s too hard.
I want to take people at their word. I want to trust people to be honest with me if there is an issue or a request.
Otherwise I will spend the rest of my life psychoanalyzing every little statement to understand what someone may have been saying.
I can’t completely shut off the part of me that reads between the lines, nor do I want to. However, I do refuse to let it consume my heart and mind.
And I don’t think you should, either.
Maybe you’re not wired exactly like me. But there’s a strong possibility you respond to words that aren’t being spoken. There’s a strong possibility you’re living in a bondage you don’t even realize, feeling like a slave to the unvoiced emotions or issues of others, living in a reactive mode to implied requests without even realizing it.
Authors Henry Cloud and John Townsend talk a lot about this subject in their book, “Boundaries.” It was this book that shaped my desire to stop reading the minds of others.
Within the context of boundaries, they also emphasized the importance of personal responsibility with our feelings and our thoughts, and how necessary it is that we learn to be honest about what we can and cannot handle.
For myself, I cannot handle always reading between the lines. It’s exhausting and wearying. And since my reading isn’t always correct, it often doesn’t help things.
I’ll still do my best to be considerate and kind. Sometimes I will respond to the unvoiced request.
But I will no longer take responsibility to respond to something that isn’t being said.
Because I don’t want to read your mind. And I hope you don’t want me to.