Get a judgmental look from a co-worker? Maybe she just needs more fiber in her diet and she ran out of fiber bars this morning. Hopefully she gets some fiber stat. Neighbor won’t even say hi? Waiter asked when you are due and you aren’t expecting? Maybe your neighbor secretly covets your golf course caliber lawn. Maybe your waiter is about 12 and assumes every adult female is with child. In all likelihood, their behavior has nothing to do with you.

According to the current issue of Self magazine, research says we often get it wrong when it comes to judging the motives of others. I’m definitely raising my hand on this one. I often assume my colleagues, friends, and even strangers are chess masters. If I get a judgmental look, a backhanded compliment, or complete lack of acknowledgment entirely, I often assume they plotted their moves in advance. Remember “Fran”? I used to think almost everything she did was an effort to prove her superiority. The reality is, most people don’t live like that. Most people are not chess masters. For the most part, people live life in the present. What’s happening right now? What am I dealing with or going through right now? With the exception of villains like Darth Vader,The Green Goblin, and the devil, no one sits around plotting the destruction of others.

If you could stop someone in the middle of their irritating behavior to find out what’s going on, you would probably discover they are more critical of themselves than anyone else. You might find they are more self-destructive than destructive of others.

Why didn’t you say hi? I’m too busy thinking about how I’m going to feed my family after losing my job.

You $$$$, why did you cut me off on the highway? I’m so distracted with the busyness of my life that I don’t know if I’m coming or going.

That was a compliment? I wish I could get promoted. I’ve worked here for five years and no one notices my hard work.

You never know what’s truly going on. Does this mean we should make excuses for everyone’s behavior? No. We can show a little compassion and grace. If that difficult person told you what’s really going on they would say “It has nothing to do with you. It’s me.”

Jesus tells us to love our enemies and to love our neighbors as ourselves. These are not suggestions. These are requirements for anyone who follows Him. Not only do we need to stop assuming everyone is a chess master, we need to start assuming everyone needs an encounter with Him.