After work I was headed to get Jake from school and the car in front of me was going a good 15 miles an hour slower than the rest of traffic. Totally oblivious to the flow of traffic, the woman just drove at her own pace without any regard for the rest of us on the freeway. She had to have been too old to have had any business driving on the freeway. She was undoubtedly a menace- to herself and the rest of us.
What if the guy in the morning was a young father who just got a call from his wife that their baby was sick? His wife was in a panic, the little one was having trouble breathing and she was begging him to meet her at the hospital right away.
And the woman. What if her car started to make a funny rattle just as she pulled onto the freeway. Elderly and frightened, she didn't want to get stuck on the freeway alone, so she was driving as slowly and carefully as possible just trying to get to the next exit, praying all the way.
The truth is, we don't know. But for me at least, my inclination is too often to assume the worst. I look at what I see on the surface, and I make assumptions like I shared in the initial descriptions of these common scenarios.
What about when these "freeway-type scenarios" happen in every day life? Maybe it's not in your car that you feel cut-off or disregarded, but rather in your "merging moments" in life. A friend cuts the conversation short when you call? A casual acquaintance doesn't acknowledge you when you cross paths in the grocery store. Someone passes you in the hall at church and doesn't say hello. Which direction do you go as you read into the situation?
Have your actions or intentions ever been misunderstood? Have you ever been denied the benefit of the doubt? It's not a very good feeling. I know how that feels, and yet I find myself so often guilty of denying others the same as well.
Is it a courtesy? A gift? I know for me, I hold onto it like a treasure. The truth is, I find it difficult to offer it to most. It's easier with strangers, or people I don't know well than it is with people I do. Why? What is it that makes us (me?) experts on others that causes me to hold back the benefit of the doubt. Why is the inclination to the negative?
Maybe it actually is deserving. Maybe often, even most often, people don't really deserve the benefit of the doubt. But you know what I have begun to realize? When I hold back the benefit of the doubt, I not only potentially harm the other person, but I harm myself as well. When I hold back the benefit of the doubt, it's as though I am shutting the door to grace.
I want to be a woman of grace. Someone once spoke a word of prophecy over me about "a posture of grace," and it has stuck with me, mostly because I know I'm not there yet. I want to be, but I'm not. But perhaps the "benefit of the doubt" is the key that opens the first door to a hallway that actually ends with me becoming a woman of grace.
This I know, there is far more freedom in assuming the best about others. Too often when I take hold of and dwell on a perceived offense, I weigh myself down just as much, if not more, than I attach a weight to the other person.
I know there's a risk. Assuming the best about others and giving people the benefit of the doubt- the treasure of it- opens the door to getting hurt, or being made a fool of. But it's a risk worth taking, because it's a choice of not only grace, but of love.
I do believe the hallway to being a woman of grace is long; and there are probably dozens of doorways along the way that will try to distract and deter me from the destination, but it's a start, and the key that opens the door to this path is simple- don't be so quick to judge, so quick to assume, so quick to decide- but rather, leave room for the grace, and in a loving way, CHOOSE to give others the treasure, the benefit of the doubt.
Maybe this post was just a good reminder for me, but maybe not.