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?