Thinking the best of others
Do you ever find it hard to think the best of people?
I sometimes do.
Now granted, some people have not proven themselves worthy to have the best thought of them, but that’s a whole different topic. But what about those people in our lives who have proven themselves to be consistently loving, kind, and trustworthy? And what about those who we don’t know or who we just met? Need an example? Here are a couple – they may or may not be personal examples from my own life …
#1 – Your husband comes home ten minutes later than he said he would for supper. You are angry because the food was on the table when he said he would be home and now it’s getting a bit cold. How could he be so disrespectful for the time you spent trying to put a hot meal on the table? And wasn’t he thinking of the kids and the fact that they’d be getting antsy to eat?
#2 – You are in a book club and there is one woman in the group you don’t know. You notice that she will never smile at you when your eyes meet and that she, overall, seems to be withdrawn and almost sullen. You decide, right then and there, that this woman obviously dislikes you and overall has a bad attitude.
Ok, ok – I confess, example #1 is about me and my husband. Ironically, even though I seem to run late almost everywhere I go, timeliness really is a big thing for me. To me, it’s a respect thing … therefore, I feel a bit disrespected at times when people show up later than they said they would arrive. And, I tend to feel like I disrespect other when I do the same. (Dear friends who are reading this – don’t freak out if we have plans and you show up late. :)) Wanting to be on time and desiring others to arrive when they said they would is not necessarily wrong, but I can take it too far, particularly with my husband. Although Shun-Luoi would never claim to be perfect, he does have a history of being loving, kind, respectful, and trustworthy. However, when he is late (particularly if I have dinner waiting), I seem to forget all of that. Instead, I project onto him a man who is disrespectful and selfish. Ridiculous? You bet. Have I don’t it more than once, then had to ask for forgiveness? To my shame, yes. There are many instances in my marriage where I have not thought the best of my husband, and as you can imagine, it always leads to problems.
And what about example #2? Seriously? Deciding that a woman you have met on one occasion dislikes you? That she just has a bad attitude about life in general? It is easy to decide such things for people who serve us everyday in public settings (people who we may just come into contact with once or twice), as well as people we meet in social settings.
Why do we do this? Ok, let’s get personal … why do I do this?
I’m convinced this is the main reason – I am too self-focused (which, I hate to break it to you/myself, the Bible calls sin). I think only of how I was affected by the other person, how he (or she) most certainly was scheming about how to make me mad, how he was not being considerate of my feelings, how he was being selfish and attending to his own matters while forgetting about my needs, and mostly, how he seems to want to ruin my life. Think I’m being a bit dramatic? Maybe, but if I was to verbalize what I was thinking when I don’t think the best of someone, most of those things would probably have to be said.
How easy it is for us to only think of ourselves! What about the other person? What is my husband was late to arrive home because he unknowingly lost track of time? What if he was stopping to help someone in need on the side of the road? Maybe he was in an accident and narrowly escaped being hurt. And the list goes on. When we think of only ourself, we stop considering how the other person is doing and never give him/her the chance to explain. That’s pretty unfair, I would propose.
And what about the woman in the book discussion? Maybe she would not meet your eyes because she is insecure in her relationships with others. Maybe she is having a hard day and is barely fighting back the tears. And maybe, just maybe, she is being sullen so that you will not approach her, when. in actuality, that is the very thing she needs. We need to remember that she, just like ourselves, was created by God as someone with great value. Others, no matter their outward attitude or response to us all have needs, struggles, and desire to be loved and cared for.
Sometimes, my husband may be in the wrong when I am thinking the worst of him. But I need to remember his track record (of kindness, love, and trustworthiness), keep an open mind, and allow him the opportunity to explain his tardiness before I immediately decide why he is late and all the things that also means about his character and how he feels about me. And the lady in the small group? Maybe she is a more sullen person and does have a bad attitude in life. But it’s unfair to decide that (and therefore write her off) after just one time of meeting.
Here’s a little something I have to remind myself – the world does not revolve around me. It’s not all about me. Can you believe it? The audacity of other people to have their own needs and their own issues and situations going on! I jest, but I’m also being serious – isn’t this how we tend to act some, or more honestly, much of the time?
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)
Yes, I shared those lines from the Bible just a few posts ago. But my tendency toward self-focus is still there, and the truth of those statements is still present. And so I remind myself again.
Part of loving others is thinking the best of them. I want to do a better job of that. How about you?