We all struggle to think the best of other people. There’s something inside of us that more often believes the negative things that we hear about someone before we believe the positive. In other words we find it difficult to give people the benefit of the doubt. A good definition of the benefit of the doubt is: to believe something good or positive about someone, rather than something bad or negative, when you have the possibility of doing either.
In the legal arena this means that if a jury has evidence that casts a doubt on the guilt of a defendant they must reach a verdict of “not guilty.” They must believe the good rather than the negative. We tend, however, to judge people’s motives and their actions often before we have all of the facts. When we do, we are prone to judge them guilty.
The Apostle addressed this issue in 1 Corinthians 13:7 when he said that love believes all things. The idea is that when we love somebody we trust him fully; we expect nothing but good things from him even though appearances be against him (NIC pg 307 emphasis mine). If we are operating in love as the New Testament teaches (Ephesians 5:1-2) then we will give others the benefit of the doubt. We will believe the good about them – even when there are things that appear negative.
What is it that causes us to think the worst about people? Past experiences, familiarity with a person’s character, not knowing as much about the person as we think we do and our own inclinations all play into our decisions. However, the tendency to not extend to others the benefit of the doubt comes down to a lack of loving others as Christ loves them. It comes from a mind that has not been transformed into thinking like Christ (Romans 12:2).
When Christ was asked to name the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:36) He not only named the greatest commandment (love the Lord your God) but He also gave us the second greatest commandment – You shall love your neighbor as yourself (verse 39). That is, we are to love each other the same way that we love ourselves. That means that we are to treat other people the same way that we treat ourselves. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t give themselves the benefit of the doubt. If we can think the good about ourselves even though there may be things that appear to be against us, then we have the obligation to think the good about others even though appearances be against him. Giving others the benefit of the doubt goes against our natural inclinations. It is not easy, but it is the right thing to do.
The next time you are tempted to judge another person before you have all of the facts, remember that love believes all things – it believes the best about another person even when appearances say otherwise.
Stay in the Word