Yesterday I preached about letting go of psychic illusions. I suggested that we need to relinquish the idea that we can read other people’s minds and the companion illusion that they can read ours. It would save us a lot of trouble and pain if we could.

All too often we project onto others what we believe they are thinking with scant awareness that we might be completely wrong. That leads us to draw conclusions that are often negative, and almost always more critical than is warranted. Other people can be mean, thoughtless, selfish, manipulative, and even evil, but they are rarely as much of that as we think. What I mean is, if we really could read their minds, we might understand that the thought process or the life experiences that led to that moment of bad behavior aren’t nearly as nefarious as we projected. We all are justified in our own minds, and that includes people who do us great harm.

The other way we need to give up pretending to be psychic is our expectation that others know what we need or want. This is something about which I am awful. Somewhere I must have skipped the lesson in which we were taught that the world would be a better place if we all simply asked for what we need or want. Expecting someone to somehow intuitively know is a set up for anger, resentment, and, ultimately, disappointment.

We all work hard to pay attention to the needs and desires of people we love. We try to buy gifts they really want without them having to tell us. It is wonderful when we succeed because the other person feels attended to and loved. The trouble is we don’t really attend to one another very much. There are lots of reasons for this, but rarely is it because we are being selfish. We are too busy, distracted, obsessed with our own struggles to really attend to another’s needs or desires. We get it right every now and then, but that is fairly rare and, generally, only with those few closest to us. The trouble is, although we don’t often get it right, we expect others to.

We all would be happier if we stopped assuming that others can read our minds, which would make it okay to ask for what we need. We also would make ourselves less miserable if we surrendered the illusion that we can read others’ minds and, perhaps, offer them a bit more grace.