Benefit of the Doubt

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.                                  Matthew 7:1-2

I was talking with a client recently about how to approach his wife on a certain situation, and the idea of giving others the benefit of the doubt came up.  I suggested that, based on the Jewish Talmud, scholars went to great lengths to instruct others how to “judge favorably”. They would come up with possible scenarios for why a person, who seemed to act in bad faith on the surface, may have other issues going on which caused his negative behaviors toward them. The exercise itself simply made them stop and think about how they were supposed to treat their Jewish brethren.

I shared with my client that he may need to consider ascribing good motives to his wife’s behavior rather than assuming her worst motives toward him. He paused and said, “you know, I have always prided myself with giving other people the benefit of the doubt, but I have not done that with my wife”.

The ability to assume good motives in loving relationships is a significant factor in determining how well that relationship will flourish and stay intact. We are called, as the Talmud said to “judge favorably”.

When Jesus said in the sermon on the mount that we are to consider how we judge others, I think this is what he meant.

Prayer: Lord we are quick to judge and slow to understand at times. Help us on the journey to understanding, Amen

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