benefit of the doubt

We hear this phrase often. We teach it to kids. It’s in the legal system. We give the defendant the benefit of the doubt, presume/assume a well intention/innocence before thinking it is a bad intention/guilty.

I keep hoping one day that this idea is actually taken to heart. I’m not talking about full blown naivety and trust everything that people say and do. We aren’t that enlightened. I think it’s fine to take someone at face value to start with and using questions, experience, or other evidence, get a better sense of what is going on. What I am saying is that why do we constantly presume that what was said or done was ill intentioned before even trying to see it another way? I think sometimes I live with my blinders on too much trying to see the good in people. I try but other people sure make it a lot harder to KEEP them on.

Now with a random person you play it by ear as above. You take what they say and you pass it through your filters. We do profile and stereotype people. We do it each and every day to each and every person we meet. But we can still keep an open mind.

This brings me to another thought. The people you know. I’m not talking about the people you see every so often or just say hello to. This is for the people you see outside of work. You call or text or email or go to events with. Those people are probably even friends.

So what bugs me and I have a hard time understanding is why those people, assuming you are worth trusting, will assume something you said or did was with malintention instead of stopping for a moment and saying, “hmm.. this person is usually nice. maybe i misunderstood something.” Of course this goes back to other posts and thoughts that in general people suck at communication. But now I wonder about these people and sometimes I feel really bad for them. Have they had a life and continue to have this life where maybe they can’t trust people? Where they were wronged so many times or so deeply that they choose to no longer want to see good?

Recently I asked someone that I thought trusted me if they were planning on coming to trivia again. I have a group of friends I go with frequently but we were going to be taking a break for a few weeks. This someone has been once. Just once but expressed an interest in coming back sometime. The following are my message and the response I got back.

ME:”honest question: are you ever planning on coming to trivia again? just asking to know if I should tell you when we aren’t going to be there.”

THEM:”Honest response: you don’t have to invite me to things if it is irritating.”

I didn’t think I had said something bad. And yes, while I do see that I could have worded it differently, I thought my intention, whatever their perception, was clear in what I did say. I didn’t want this person showing up and finding out we weren’t there. If others read this and think otherwise, I’d like to know. From my end the kicker is that I don’t think I ever treated this person badly before or lied or ever was intentionally rude. And although I tried to say these things, alas I have not heard back yet.

It does bother me thinking that this person’s first response was to assume I was irritated with them. I try and be open and honest with people and continue to realize people just aren’t able to handle it. Unfortunately, I have a hard time not being honest. You try and think good about others and you forget that other people may not think good things first.

I had a similar honesty situation also recently. (I have a lot of these in general by the way. I’m just pulling these two out.) There was a potential opportunity to catch up with someone and I voiced an honest concern. The immediate response back was a presumption that my honest thought was a recognition or perception of a problem instead of the actual statement I made of being aware that issues might come up.

Why and how to people go through life like this? This automatic assumption that people, including those people you know and hopefully trust, are meaning something bad when they talk to you. Do a certain degree I really don’t understand it. I’m actually trying to and it’s frustrating. If you try and keep an open mind about the possibilites in life, how do you then go about closing your mind? Like many people I know in my heart that there have been times I have been accused of something I didn’t do. We all know that pain inside, I hope. That idea that you know you didn’t do it or say it and now the situation is getting out of hand. Maybe at some point the truth surfaces and people try and apologize or make amends.

It’s that type of situation that SHOULD force people to try and keep an open mind afterwards. Maybe what you perceived as an angry or hurtful statement from the person you are communicating with didn’t really mean you thought. How much heartache could be saved if we just took a few moments to stop and ask what they really meant? That best friend of yours… the one you got angry with… if they are normally saying rude and mean things, then sure, they probably did again but if they are almost 100% of the time nice and pleasant and they said something you thought wasn’t nice and pleasant then I implore you to react in a new way.




Those few seconds of pause might mean the difference between the real meaning of what they said and weeks of anger. I’m not saying they didn’t slip from 100% with their first mean words. They may have. But if you have that open mind added with your experience maybe they are going through some deep shit so bad that they lashed out. If you stopped for that pause and thought, “this isn’t like this person. maybe there is something else going on,” the world might start becoming a better place and you might start becoming a better person.

So no, I will probably not try and become close minded again. I will continue to try and stay open minded and honest to myself and others even when they don’t know what do with it. I will continue to hope they people won’t always look for a deeper meaning in honest/truthful statements. I will continue to stay frustrated not understanding why people (especially the ones I care about) will presume a negative meaning instead of pausing to review any past interactions to see if they make sense with what they know from before. I will continue to hope that one day one person will read one thing I’ve written and be changed for the better.

May we seek the divine within us to become more enlightened.


-Santa’s Fallen Angel


3 thoughts on “benefit of the doubt

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