I remember many times as a teenager that I would come home and complain about something a friend had said to me. Once I finished venting my frustration, my mom always tried to help me see the situation from my friend’s point of view. Maybe she’d had an awful day and without thinking took her bad attitude out on me. Or maybe she had no idea how her words would sound and she didn’t mean to offend or upset me. Perhaps I’d misunderstood what she said. It was also possible that I was the one who’d had a bad day, and I was just being overly sensitive to her comment.
Usually, my mom was right. Once I calmed down, I saw the situation more clearly. But even if I wasn’t sure if my friend deserved it, my mom always encouraged me to give her the benefit of the doubt, to believe the best about her.
Those who love us don’t purposefully set out to hurt our feelings. They want to bless us, not offend us. Yet we often do feel hurt or get upset by things that are said or done. In those moments, it’s vital for us to practice giving others the benefit of the doubt. That means that instead of assuming the person meant to hurt us, we assume that they didn’t. We believe the best about them – that they didn’t intend to wound us, and that of course they care about us.
This doesn’t mean that we excuse wrong behavior. And it doesn’t mean that certain words or actions won’t still hurt. We need to practice forgiveness every time we are wounded, whether it was consciously or unconsciously done. But when we believe the best, that the other person didn’t realize and unintentionally hurt us, then we can approach them gently and respectfully. Instead of accusing them, we can inquire about what happened, converse graciously, and work toward better communication.
This perspective of believing the best has helped me overcome many miscommunications with people. This attitude also helps us not to become bitter and assume the worst of people.
Proverbs 11:27 says, He who seeks good finds goodwill, but evil comes to him who searches for it.
Think about the times you hurt someone else’s feelings without meaning to. Didn’t you wish they would have given you the benefit of the doubt? Didn’t you want them to believe the best about you, instead of assuming the worst?
Let’s ask God to help us see other people as He sees them, to believe the best about them, and to grow in our relationships. I believe this practice will be life-giving for all of us.