Giving Others the Benefit of the Doubt
True story: Alan sat in his car full of anger and disappointment. He had just dropped off his date after cutting the evening short. The person who had fixed him up had promised Alan the “girl of his dreams,” but as soon as his date got in the car, a terrible smell accompanied her. It followed them into the restaurant and lingered in the air even now. What kind of girl doesn’t even shower before a date?
Later, when Alan got home, his mother started shouting about something that he was tracking into the house. Alan looked down at his shoe and found the real source of the smell that had followed him all night!
As this story illustrates, we are often quick to judge others, and more often than not, we judge them wrongly. Sadly, when we jump to conclusions, we often sever connections and ruin relationships – for no good reason at all. What a tragedy.
We can learn an important lesson from Alan. Unlike him, we can remember to give those we meet the benefit of the doubt. Someone cut you off in traffic? Maybe they have an emergency to which they are heading. Someone gave you an unfriendly, angry look? Maybe they had a fight with their spouse that morning. When giving others the benefit of the doubt, we may interpret the situation just as incorrectly as when we assume the worst. But so what? If we are right, we have saved a relationship. If we are wrong, we have given someone a second chance.
When we assume the worst, we all suffer; but when we assume the best, we are all better off for it. (DJS)