There was a time when giving someone the “benefit of the doubt” was a more common practice, especially amongst family and good friends. Nowadays, however, it seems this is quickly becoming a thing of the past, and I sometimes wonder why; however, the Bible explains it in Matthew 24:12. The benefit of the doubt is something that we all have needed or will need at some point. So why does it seem so hard for people to be willing to give it to others?
One definition of “the benefit of the doubt” is “to believe something good about someone, rather than something bad, when you have the possibility of doing either.” When I have tried to encourage others to give someone the benefit of the doubt I’ve been rebuffed. I have received responses like, “I don’t give the benefit of the doubt” or “I don’t have any benefit of the doubt in me to give” or “you can go on somewhere with that benefit of the doubt stuff.” It seems so easy for human beings to take something they don’t like about someone or read a person’s actions as the worst a person can have, and just cut them off. Sometimes this leaves the individual feeling rejected and wondering what they did wrong. My question is, are believers supposed to be able to give others the benefit of the doubt or is it okay for us to take the world’s way of doing things and reject people because some quirk in their personality rubs us the wrong way at times?
Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that someone who has proven themselves to be a detriment to us or our family has to be allowed close. I am talking about trifling annoyances like,
- Talking too much
- Superiority (thinking themselves better than others)
- Opinionated (believing their way is the right way)
- Dumping cracker crumbs on the floor and sweeping them up later
While dealing with these types of things in another person can be annoying, they are not life threatening. Sometimes there are reasons behind the exhibition. This is where the benefit of the doubt comes in.
Let’s say I have a friend who carries herself with a strong air of superiority and, to top it off, she is highly opinionated. Her ways and actions are annoying. I can,
- Get sick of it “cut her off.”
- Talk to her about it, and explain how her behavior makes me, as well as others, feel; she may not realize the message she is sending by her actions.
- Overlook her foibles and love her despite them.
- Try to understand the reasons behind the behavior.
Choices “b”, “c”, and “d” are examples of giving the benefit of the doubt. Her act of superiority could be a ruse to cover feelings of inferiority. She may not realize that she presents herself as better than others.
The truth is we know people, may even know them very well, but we will never know ALL. We all have weaknesses that we may not care to explain. We have all been through things that have helped shape who we are. We have all picked up certain characteristics from our parents, good or bad, that have influenced how we think, how we talk, and what we do. Every last one of us is as imperfect as we can be. Every last one of us needs to be viewed with a more understanding eye than the hypercritical one we tend to use with everyone else.
Think about it. How would we feel if we heard a friend or family member voice the same thoughts/opinions about us that we have about them? What if friends/family chose to think the worst about us because of annoyances unrecognized by us? The fact is we all have something we do/say that gets on someone’s nerves. Actually, if we would take the time to examine ourselves, we would find that we often do the very thing(s) we find so annoying in another. We ALL need the benefit of the doubt.
How much better would our relationships be with our families, friends, and coworkers if we practiced choosing to believe the good about others; if we chose to find and dwell on the good in them? If we chose to focus on their good points rather than harp on the small things that annoy us, if we chose to pray instead of rake them over the coals, could we not help them become better people? Do we love them enough to try?
The Benefit of the Doubt – is it not what God granted us? Is it not what He still grants us — everyday? What would the Lord have us give others?
1 Corinthians 13
Until next time!
Share Your Thoughts!
What do you think about giving the benefit of the doubt?
Are you for it or against it? Why?
Do you find it hard to give the benefit of the doubt?
What is one time when you needed the benefit of the doubt? Was it granted or not? How did you feel?