Give the Benefit of the Doubt
I am by temperament a critical person. What I mean is that I tend to process information analytically. Analysis comes easy for me. Self-reflection is natural. I tend to examine myself, others, ideas, and events. I don’t do this obsessively. I just tend to think about stuff a lot. I think my way through life as opposed to feeling my way through it.
This type of temperament can be a blessing. It allows me to avoid being taken advantage of. I’m not naturally naïve or gullible. I tend to not be given to group-think. Nevertheless, there are also disadvantageous. One disadvantage, the one I want to discuss, is that I find it hard to give people the benefit of the doubt. I tend to negatively interpret people—their motives, their actions, and their speech. I say this not in pride but in shame. This is a character deficiency.
Giving other people the benefit of the doubt is an essential Christian characteristic. It is a quality of the love that Paul specifies in 1 Cor 13. In v. 7, Paul writes, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” Notice the “believes all things, hopes all things?” It’s in those two clauses where we see our need to give others the benefit of the doubt. Love entails we must believe the best about others and hope that they do what’s right. When in question, love believes and hopes for the best.
Paul instruction does not mean that we must be naïve, for Paul also writes, “Let no one deceive you with empty words” (Eph 5:6). We must be sharp in our thinking. However, our initial response should be love, not suspicion, even though suspicion is sometimes necessary.
To summarize. Don’t assume the worst of others. Fight to believe the best, especially your brothers and sisters in Christ. There might come a time when you should doubt others’ motives, but don’t desire or hope for that. Give the benefit of the doubt. That’s what God’s love requires of us.