Giving People the Benefit of the Doubt

Most people know that I am an introvert by nature, but time has also made me a pessimist. Through my years of regularly dealing with people I have learned that the glass is always half empty and what I am being told is half the truth.

I wish this were not true about myself, but there is no denying it. Most people tend to let me down, confuse me, lie to me and distort their words to their own advantage. My time in ministry has frequently shown me the worst in people more than the best. In fact, I challenge people to spend a week or two in the Church office and see if that does not begin to change them too.

Recently I realized how cynical I have become in my dealing with people. This led me to challenge myself to handle people from a more positive standpoint. It is not an easy endeavor for me to undertake, but I have learned a few things already on this journey.

1. My distrust of others can come from my personal struggles.
There is an old saying that goes, “to a thief; all men are thieves.” I must continually remind myself of that when dealing with people. It is easy for me to project my flaws onto another person even when they do nothing to deserve it. I know what goes on inside my private world and it is easy to assume that all people have the same issues. When I get frustrated with other people, the first place I need to look is a mirror.

2. It is difficult to give people the benefit of the doubt.
For some reason, possibly just my sinful nature, I often attribute other people with negative actions and emotions. They said that to hurt me. They did that because they know I hate it. There is this subtle shift in my thinking that makes everyone else the villain trying to destroy me as the hero of my story. The truth is that this is rarely happening. Most people are not even thinking about me. I must force myself to give people the benefit of the doubt and not attribute them to some heinous motives.

3. Every sinner stills need the love of Jesus and his people.
The people who do have negative intentions are the most in need of grace. I often wonder how people treated Jesus. He was called a friend of tax collectors and sinners and being of that type of character probably led them to lie to him and hurt his feelings. I am sure they were not always perfect friends in return. Yet, Jesus remained their friend because he knew it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. The same is still true today.

4. Ultimately, I am responsible for my actions alone.
When I am kind to someone, it might be greeted with anger. When I am generous, it might be met with selfishness. Other people’s response should not dictate my actions. The followers of Jesus turn the other cheek when they are struck. They pray for those who persecute them. They do not become cynical and self-centered because other people are acting that way. The call is to rise above my natural reactions to those who abuse my good nature.

I must admit to you, the journey back to optimism is a rough road. Every day my patience is tested as I clench my teeth and ask God to help me. But I want my life to be shaped by Jesus and his desire for me far above my common everyday response. It is never easy to give people the benefit of the doubt, but it always the best for everyone.

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