Coping Skill: #40. Giving the Benefit of the Doubt

Sometimes the person that we see is different than we first perceive.

Sometimes the person that we see is different than we first perceive.

One couple stayed at the restaurant last night until closing. While helping them clear off their dishes, I glanced at the man who stared back at me with wide eyes. “Why are you here?” He demanded bluntly but with a trace of a smile.

“Um, to help you?” Smiling nervously, I darted from the table with plates. What had made him question my presence? Did it seem like I was rushing them away or being rude?

A few minutes later, I returned to clean up nearby their table. “What the h— are you still doing here?” He called while his wife shushed him a bit. Normally, I would have scurried away, but something about the kind gleam in his eyes made me stand my ground. So instead, we began to talk about where I lived and my school. Anxious thoughts warned me that these subjects were a bit too personal and sensitive. However, I decided to be polite and hope that he was simply overly friendly.

Finally, he repeated a sentence twice in a row. “You already said that,” his wife reminded.

“Oh.” The bewildered look on his face lasted for a moment before he repeated himself again.

With a patient smile, the wife tried to apologize. “He had a stroke some months ago, and it affected his brain a little.”

“I’m crazy,” He whispered to me before laughing.

Suddenly, it all made sense to me. I felt bad for the couple and remained talking with them for longer. But even more than that, I felt grateful that I had not judged them right away.

Sometimes we are overly trusting. That can led to unsafe situation. Too often, however, people judge others. Instead of getting to know someone, we assume what type of person they are because of their looks, speech, age, race, etc.

Giving the benefit of the doubt is not easy. Using this coping skill requires forgiving others instead of latching onto anger. It might not even sound like a real skill but a life lesson. Perhaps it is that as well. However, I regularly use this to get through anxiety, PTSD fears, depression, and a bad mood.

When someone speeds down the road, I hope that they get wherever they are going safely. Perhaps a loved one is dying, their job is at stake, or they are late for an important meeting. If someone is rude to me, I try to think that they might be having an awful day and do not have the strength to fake a smile.

Believing the best in others is difficult, but it is not impossible. I am challenging myself to give others the benefit of the doubt this week instead of jumping to conclusions. Are you willing to try this coping skill with me?

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17 thoughts on “Coping Skill: #40. Giving the Benefit of the Doubt

  1. celinemurray says:

    I really like what you said here Anna Rose. As Christians, I sometimes think we’re more prone to judge people than others, but we’re very self-conscious about it at the same time. Still, we all need a reminder. Thank you for giving me one today. 🙂

  2. Love this – great advice!
    Diana

  3. I embrace judgment be it bad or good. When a person judges me incorrectly (be it bad or good)it shows that I may not want a future with them. When a person judges me correctly I take an interest in them because perceptive person are people that can teach and learn….judgement helps me pick the company I keep. Remain optimistic; continue to believe the best until the worst show it face!!!!

    • Judgement can be helpful in choosing who to be with. That is a very good point. Thanks for the encouragement and wise words.

      • I always wonder why people fear judgment when it’s not being judged that should scare people its being prejudiced that’s the problem!!!!

        • Well, people can judge one another unkindly and be unforgiving. Perhaps that would always be prejudice. However, the word judgement usually carries with it harsh criticism with little knowledge. That is not the way the word was originally intended maybe.

          • Sorry I wrote prejudice when I meant prejudging….judgement is just, a well, carefully thought out opinion verse prejudge is make a judgment prematurely or before having adequate information. If the unkind judgment is accurate then it’s truth but if its not its premature and unfounded….

          • Hm, that is a good way of defining judgment.

          • Thanks, people avoid judgment because they aren’t willing to change negative things they are being judged for…. So they rather say a person is being judgmental then improve their habits. It is nice to have a healthy discussion about a topic without someone getting defensive….thank you.

          • You’re welcome. I agree with you. It is hard because I err on the side of being nice instead of using wisdom. However, I need to use judgement more often and not fear hurting people.

          • Wow, you’re accountable has humbled me….I agree you most true your intentions over your fear in tears. Love is a long term lifestyle, think future clarity over present pain!!!!

          • You are so wise! Thank you!

          • You’re welcome….keep in touch

  4. How do you navigate the fine line between not judging people and not protecting yourself? Sometimes, revealing personal details to strangers is dangerous, sometimes allowing yourself to be too emotionally vulnerable to a friend or acquaintance is dangerous…yes, it’s good not to judge, but at the same time, you can get hurt.

    • It is hard to know that line. Normally, I would not have been so open with a stranger. Because my boss was just a few feet away, I felt a bit safer. The line between trust and staying safe is very hard to navigate though.

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