The Impossibility of Mind Reading

Day 14 in Proverbs 

Proverbs 14: 10 “No one else can really know how sad or happy you are.”


This is a little verse, almost hidden in this chapter.  It would be easy to overlook.  If you look at it on the surface, it appears to be unimportant.  But I think it holds great wisdom.

We like to think of ourselves as intuitive people…..and everyone else as intuitive too.  We see our judgments of people and their feelings as quite accurate…..and while we think that our judgment is better than that of everyone else, we expect them to have good judgment, too.

We also see ourselves as quite special……the center of the world.  (You know you do!!!)  Whether you have high or low self esteem.  It’s impossible not to really, since we can’t escape the importance of us.  We think everyone else remembers it, too.  We think we are the stars in the movie of everyone’s live…..or at least their second banana.  Why wouldn’t everyone be thinking just of us during most of their thoughtful moments?

Alas, the truth is that people really don’t think much about you at all.   When they do, it probably isn’t as much about your needs as their own needs.  Or about something totally different than you would expect.  Yeah….that’s probably wrong of them, but also probably the truth.

Still we expect people to read our minds.  To guess at what is going on inside these complicated brains of ours.  We expect them to know something as simple as whether we are happy or sad.  We’ve been given them enough clues!  What is wrong with these people????

When I was in college my really good friend Bill came to see me one day.  He had shaved off one half of his moustache.  He was talking to me for about 15 minutes….and I never noticed.  No one else could believe it.  And yes, I did look right at his face.  Even when they finally told me there was something different, it took me a while.  I tended to see my friend more than I saw his characteristics.  Of course, it left him wondering if I paid attention to him at all!  (I did….really!)  My focus, however, was on other things.

But while most people may notice half a moustache, something as simple as whether you are happy or sad escapes most people.  They are looking at the surface….maybe trying to decide if your bangs are straight or whether they should tell you there is spinach in your teeth.  Or whether you like them.  Or whether you really, really, really like them.

When it gets down to it, sometimes we can’t even completely identify whether we are happy or sad.  Sometimes we are both.  Sometimes we are dramatically both.  Sometimes we are neither.

So, if is important to us for someone to know whether we are happy or sad, sometimes we have to tell them.  When you do, expect almost any reaction.  They may not be the kind of person who has ever concerned themselves with whether they are happy or sad at a given moment.  They may not get the significance to you…..they may not know what you want them to do about it.  And what do you want them to do about it?  If you know, you may need to tell them that, too.  Because it is not always an easy call.

Happiness and sadness are emotions that start within us….not  with anything on the outside.  We can blame them on others, or on the situations that occur in our life, but mostly when festering they are our choice.  

While things people do can make us happy or make us sad, sometimes our reaction is not exactly what people anticipate. For example, usually a woman receiving a beautiful bouquet of flowers is a really good thing.  But if the wrong person gives them to you……maybe they make you uncomfortable and are not as well received.  Or maybe you really hate red roses and you have told that person (the love of your life) a dozen times that daisies are your favorite flower….but they continually buy you a big bouquet of red roses.  The message they are sending may not be what they intend.  They may wonder why you are so unhappy when they went out of their way to get you flowers.

Let’s resolve to  learn for ourselves that no one else can really know how sad or how happy we are.  We need to tell them.  But mostly we need to tell our self  and ask our self what we are going to do about it.  We can prolong or enhance the happiness…..or alleviate the sadness. Or keep pouting.  It is our choice.  When we quit looking at other people to do this for us, we take a burden off those relationships.  Just maybe we can enjoy their company unencumbered..  If we want to, we can spend a few minutes wondering whether they are happy or sad….and try to make their day better.  Remember if you don’t, however, it’s their own responsibility!  When feelings reign, there is usually some choice involved.  And  mind reading, it really isn’t your talent.  Nobody can do that.  And it is generally unproductive to try.

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