Benefit Of The Doubt
Years back while still in the early vibrancy of youthful vigor of my mid twenties I learned a simple lesson that has had profound complex application in my life even still today. As with most of life’s lessons it was a lesson learned from a series of events, three to be exact, and not just a single moment of a life altering occurrence.
There I was stuck in traffic behind a truck that I swear its last emissions test was passed back in the 1950’s. Choking on exhaust fumes in the mid day heat of summer rolling down the windows wasn’t a viable option. Tempers were on edge, and inched up higher as other perceived ignorant drivers forced their way into “my” lane in front me. It was during this time that I remembered two other events that made me pause to think about what is really going on here.
Some occasion before during a Sunday school lesson I remembered what was discussed about the motives of man. What motivates man? Does the nature of the natural-man force people to do evil when it suits them? Do people inherently want to irritate others? What is the cause of distress in my life when others are seemingly involved?
The easy answer is that everyone else is ill-bred in their dealings with their fellow man, and that I am always in the right. Of course this is not the correct answer, and I knew that. People are naturally self-centered, but this is not necessarily a bad thing as you need to look at the underlining motive behind the action. An act that appears to be self-centered may indeed be not the case, but actually might be a selfless act of less than desired means to others scrutiny.
The other occasion that helped bring this together was while watching the news. The local news reported on two separate events. One report was about the increase of road-rage. The other report was about the mistaken intentions of a driver who unintentionally cut-off another driver because he was trying to catch his exit from the freeway. Sadly the offended driver pursued the other driver until police were called in to rectify the situation.
So, there I sat in the heat wishing I didn’t have any since of smell, and pondering on these events. Then it happened; an epiphany. You can know something for a long time, but until you place it into practice it remains just a thought. I had always known that everyone was trying to get to somewhere just like me, but I hadn’t really felt that compelling empathy to give individuals the benefit of the doubt. What this means is when someone does something that just rubs you the wrong way you try to look at it in a positive light, and give it a positive reasoning.
Now traffic took on a whole new meaning. Perhaps one of those driver’s wife is in the hospital and he is trying to get there in a timely manner. Suppose that another is just so anxious to get home to his family because he has been gone on a long business trip. As for my stinky truck friend conceivably his exhaust system has failed recently and he hasn’t either the time or perhaps the money to get it fixed yet.
This way of thinking of not judging based on the act of the individual, and furthermore of not knowing the intentions or motives behind the act, has worked well for me in all aspects of life. Over the years since then I have met people in many differing facets that life has to offer. Rich or Poor, Bond or Free, we all want the same things in life, and just need help from time to time from an understanding soul. Everyone wants to be accepted no matter what their status or situation. Perhaps I’m a bit selfish in this endeavor in that I enjoy seeing the good in people, and giving them the benefit of the doubt, so that I can be a better person to help service their needs.