I have a friend who has to sleep with a bite guard to keep from grinding his teeth. He also owns a beagle who loves to chew things. One night he got up to use the bathroom and thought he had set the bite guard down on his nightstand. When he returned, the bite guard had mysteriously disappeared.
All clues pointed to the dog.
Once he’d scolded the beagle, he turned the place upside-down trying to find where she’d stashed her prize. But no such luck.
The next day he went to make his bed, yanked back the covers and discovered the smoking gun. His bite guard had become entangled in his blanket, exactly where he had dropped it the night before. It had never touched the nightstand.
The beagle was exonerated, and all charges were dropped. The courts awarded her a dog biscuit for emotional distress.
We all know how the beagle felt. We’ve all had people misjudge our motives and actions. It’s insulting, and it hurts. Yet, even though we know how it feels, we turn around and do it to other people all of the time.
We’ve all given people the beagle treatment.
If jumping to conclusions were an Olympic sport, I’d be sure to win a gold medal. Why is it that even those us who call ourselves optimists tend to assume the worst about people? We hear a bit of juicy gossip and immediately assume it’s true. Someone questions a friend’s motivation, and we suspect bad intentions. So much for innocent until proven guilty.
Maybe we assume the worst about people because we know the worst about ourselves. Maybe because we know our own propensity for pettiness and selfishness, it makes it all too easy to suspect and accuse others. On the other hand, maybe we do it just because it makes us feel better about ourselves. It doesn’t actually make us better people, just better people in relation to our neighbors. After all, you know how they are, right?
The weird thing is that God knows all of our junk. He, in fact, sees the entire body of evidence that stands against us, a body of evidence that would lead any sane person to believe the absolute worst about us. Yet, He insists on believing the best about us. He insists on believing in who we can become instead of focusing who we’ve been.
This is because He knows our goodness doesn’t depend on our own power to change. It depends on His. God’s had a long history of transforming failures into people of faith. The Bible is full of these kinds of stories. So are most churches.
If God can believe in me like this, even though He knows beyond the shadow of a doubt everything I’ve done, why do I struggle to believe in others when faced with only a mere suspicion about their character?
I guess I’m just too doggone cynical, always barking up the wrong tree. Maybe I just need to give people the benefit of the doubt or, in the case of beagles, throw them a bone.