What Happens When We Assume The Best About Others?

Tim Schurrer

A few weeks ago, my wife and I locked our keys in the car during church, with the car running. We didn’t realize it until about two hours later as we were about to head to lunch.

So we did the only thing we knew to do. We called a locksmith, who arrived about 30 minutes later. But when he pulled in, we got nervous. As if the idea of breaking into our car wasn’t enough of a concern, when I caught a glimpse of him, my concern grew. He pulled into the parking lot and I swore he was still in high school.

He was giving his best attempt at a beard, in an over-sized t-shirt and shorts on a relatively brisk day. Trash fell out of his car as he opened his door to greet me.

He started, “I just need you to sign this form which says I’m not liable if any damage is done to the car. After that, I’ll give it a go.”

I stood there, even more visibly nervous than I was before.

“Would you mind walking me through your process quickly?” I asked.

“We have an air bag system to pry open the door and access the lock. But if that doesn’t work, I’ll just throw a brick through the windshield,” he grinned.

I signed the form — because what else was I going to do? — and he went to work.

After about 30 seconds, we were able to get into our undamaged car and turn off the ignition. Our locksmith finished his paperwork as I stood there, with my wife, thinking about how the last few minutes had unfolded.

*Photo by Shagun, Creative Commons

The thing I kept thinking was this: Assume positive intent.

I worked for Apple Retail for a few years and we played by a set of “rules” which defined the way we did business. One of those rules was this: assume positive intent. That meant that, no matter what a customer asked us to do, we were to assume that customer had positive intent. We weren’t supposed to assume they were trying to cheat the system or get something for free.

We were supposed to assume the best about them.

In certain situations, assuming positive intent might be perceived as ignorance or unwarranted trust, but I’m not sure it needs a title.

Assuming the best in people is a great approach to life, something I failed to do with the locksmith.

I want my life to be filled with positive intent. Fortunately, grace allows me to try again tomorrow.

Tim Schurrer

Tim Schurrer

Tim Schurrer serves as the Director of Storyline. He is also the co-founder of Free the Birds, a company that funds freedom and restoration for those who have been exploited by human sex trafficking. Tim and his wife, Katie, live in Nashville, Tennessee. For regular updates, follow along on Twitter (@timschurrer). To read more of his writing, click here