Assuming the Best
I have been pondering the Golden Rule lately. It seems like such a simple little ditty, “Do to Others as You Wish Others Would Do to You.” I don’t know about you, but I find the reality of it is quite difficult. But I have found that if we take that one step further, “Think of Others As You Would Want Them to Think of You” to be in the spirit and the same difficulty. What would this world look like if we assumed best case motives of others? There are many ways to interpret certain words or actions, but what happens if we chose not to take offense and assumed the best? The question that immediately pops into my head when I ask this, is “what about those whose motives really are bad?” I don’t think, though, if we attempt to interpret the best that this means we must put our head into the sand and never address evil. I think choosing the habit of charity in thought would buy time to better assess a situation. I decided to put this approach to the test when I encountered a real life conflict. The conflict was a clash of interpretations and I was very upset over an incident. I called for a meeting for everyone to hash it out and we had some down time before the meeting day occurred. Directly after the incident, I was still indignant and pretty self-righteous, and I knew that I was right and they were flat out wrong. But when I prayed about how to be heard by the group and how to articulate why I was so upset, it was like another path opened up before me. What if I decided to be charitable in my interpretations of why the event occurred? What if I could come up with nicer reasons for the whole situation? I went into the meeting tense and worried and when I opened up with “this was my first thought, but on further reflection I assume this is why you said/did what you did?” I could visibly see the tension deflate and the body language change. Within 15 minutes we had communicated and resolved the situation and we left happy. Wow! When I think back to it, I realize that charitable thinking was NOT my first instinct. It took me out of myself and into the shoes of others to reach a different conclusion. And it only occurred because of prayer AND because I wanted a peaceful resolution that justly addressed the conflict. I cannot help but think this world would be much more peaceful in our homes, in our work places, in our society if our charity began with a thought.