“We are to fear and love God, so that we do not tell lies about our neighbors, betray or slander them, or destroy their reputations. Instead we are to come to their defense, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light.” -M. Luther, The Small Catechism
It is in our nature to try and make sense out of the interactions we have with people. We gauge all sorts of ques, trying to interpret things like words and body language. We then attach significance to these interactions, sometimes doing this well or maybe not so well. In particular, I have been thinking a lot about giving others the benefit of the doubt. I have been thinking about this a lot because I have been quit sensitive to people jumping to conclusions.
I have been dealing with this sensitivity by asking people questions when I feel like they might be not giving the other the benefit of the doubt. I will ask them, “How do you know this? Have you talked about this with that person? Did you ask why they did (or said) what they did?”
This line of questioning will often go in one of two directions. The first, in my opinion, is hubris. The person assumes that they can trust their interpretation without allowing me to question it. This person usually doesn’t like the questions asked. They dismiss me fairly quickly and continue with their own line of thought. I think they have too much self confidence, and I might be convinced that I am not giving them the benefit of the doubt. The second response is openness. The person will ask more questions, maybe starts to see that they might have assumed too much. Maybe they will back down from their unwarranted judgements. Sometimes, they will provide more information as to why they feel what they are saying is a good interpretation of what happened.
So I wonder, how do you respond when you notice someone not giving another the benefit of the doubt?