Is what we think or feel what really happened?

It is cute seeing my son Gavin deal with relationship troubles at his age (he is 5). What is humbling is that I still grapple with some of the same things at my age!

We were out on a play date, and he comes to me very upset. I ask “What happened?” … “HE spit on my face!” Of course I have been watching the whole interaction so I know that his little friend who is a couple of years younger was just rolling his lips pretending to be a horse or something like that, and there was no ill intention. Yet Gavin is sure that it was mean spirited. So I ask Gavin “are you sure that is what he meant to do… spit in your face? or could it have been an accident? could there be another reason?”

He is immediately stumped by my question. I follow up with…”did you ask him any questions like what is he doing? …could he have been playing horsey? …or being a speed boat? …and not realized he spat out?” I see the puzzling look in his face trying to consider these possibilities. His eyes were moving side to side, and i could see all the connections he was making… and then his upset took over and he says again, “No! He did it on purpose!” So then I acknowledge him, move his hair out of his face. “Ok. I see you are upset about what happened. Did you tell your friend to stop please? …that you didn’t like it, or explain why you are leaving upset? You need to have a conversation.” By this time he had calmed down a bit and so he turned around and went back to talk to his little buddy.

What it brought up in my mind though, was all the times this past week where I thought “this email was mean-spirited” or “that comment was not nice,” and like Gavin I was sure I knew the other person’s intentions were negative. My upset had taken over… but what actually did happen in all those cases?

How often do we assume our first negative reaction is fact, not question our perspectives, or even look for the best possible or most generous assumption?