As humans, we are adept at jumping to conclusions. Nope, not the best exercise! Instead, what if we gave others the benefit of the doubt?
The newspapers were piling up. I had to call the recycling guy to pick up the plastics and other material. So, after collecting everything in the middle of the living room—of course segregated and neatly packed in brown paper bags, I phoned him. He promised to come by in the afternoon.
He didn’t though. I called again. And again. Said he’d come the next day. Which was okay, really. But he didn’t. Not for the next ten days.
There was the pile of stuff in the living room. Only, I had moved it to a spot where it wasn’t visible from the front door. Every time I’d look at it I’d feel a little more irritated.
I didn’t stop calling him though. He would just cut my call—not even answer.
Then I gave it a break.
I tried calling other recyclers. They’d give me a time but never turned up.
Finally on day 10, I thought let me call my fella one last time. I got him on the line. I asked him if he planned to come over—and why he had been cutting my calls.
He then apologized and said that his whole family had been sick. He has two toddlers. They were down with fever too. He promised to come over in the afternoon.
Now, I felt bad about being irritated. I had assumed he was taking me lightly.
I know this is something that happens to all of us.
Weird-sad-not so funny how our thoughts can manage to turn a perfectly mild situation and blow it out of proportion. Our mind takes on a life of its own and transports us to a point that is not really unjustified, to be fair, but rather silly.
For instance, when a friend doesn’t show up for a meeting and leaves us waiting, we go on to cook up all kinds of negative reasons for why it happened, and we end up feeling stressed, furious and quite depressed. We assume that the person does not care. The truth might actually be very different. Maybe the friend got unavoidably held up somewhere and couldn’t even call. Maybe their car broke down in the middle of nowhere. Maybe they fell sick.
I keep telling myself to wait until I have all the facts before I react.
We could wait to reserve judgment, right?
When we wait to know more, we stop ourselves from thinking kinds of imaginary thoughts that make us miserable.
Why get mad at someone when we have no idea about what happened?
Giving someone the benefit of the doubt
There’s a little story that illustrates giving someone the benefit of the doubt.
A man cuts off another man for a parking space. The second man is furious. Later he meets him in a store and is all set to tell him off, when he finds out that the man’s dog has just died and, in his grief, he doesn’t even remember parking. And all this time the angry man had been raging with negative thoughts in his head—thoughts that were utterly useless—thoughts that had kept him from enjoying happy moments with his son.
Isn’t it crazy to allow our thoughts to take over our lives? We need to stay balanced and control our thoughts from straying all over the place. Why let them drag us down roads that we don’t want to take? Why not redirect them, replace them with happier thoughts and distract ourselves from the unsavory stuff until we know more about situations? Won’t it help us let go of the hurt and anger and carry on with our lives feeling positive?
Why not give others the benefit of the doubt?
Something to think about:
- Do you find your thoughts taking over your mind often?
- What if we kept our thoughts positive even when faced with negative stuff?
- Why be a slave to our thoughts instead being their master?
Do you think people deserve the benefit of the doubt?
“Give people the benefit of the doubt, over and over again, and do the same for yourself. Believe that you’re trying and that they’re trying. See the good in others, so it brings out the best in you.”
― Liz Newman
Wednesday Wisdom is a series with short bursts of easy-to-consume wisdom in the form of stories, quotes, anecdotes, reflections, easy meditation, thought-provoking questions and humor.