Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Benefit of the Doubt

It is a mitzvah is to Judge Other People Favorably.

Pretend that one day you built a huge city out of Lego. You built it in your bedroom. You built buildings, bridges, towers, and tunnels. It was massive. It was a masterpiece. It took you the entire day to build it. You fell asleep on the floor looking at it.

The next day you went to school. Bummer. You couldn’t think. You couldn’t sit still. You couldn’t think about school.

What did you think about?

Your city. You thought up ways to improve it. You thought about the highway and train station you needed to build. You thought about building a grocery store. You wanted to make space for a drive-in movie theater, too.

You were very excited.

After school you ran home. You didn’t take off your coat. You didn’t say hi to mom. You didn’t eat a cookie. You ran straight to your room. You wanted to get back to work. You opened the door.


Your city was gone. It was destroyed, ruined, disappeared, and completely dismantled. Where did it go? All the Lego was in a huge box. What happened? Who did it?

You looked around the room.

Ah ha! Your little brother was sitting next to the box of Lego. He had a few pieces of Lego in his hands. Destroyer! Godzilla! He was the culprit.

You decided to kill him. He deserved it. He destroyed your city. The brat. Yuck. Horrible. You turned red. You turned purple. You were so mad. Fire came out of your eyes. Steam came out of your ears. White froth oozed from the side of your mouth. You were blind with rage. “You destroyed my city you terrible rotten horrible person. I am going to kill you.”

“No I didn’t,” he said.

Arrghh. “Liar!” You screamed and kicked and hollered and yelled. You got madder and madder.

And then your mom came into the room. Great. The cops. Justice. “Mom!” You pleaded. Truth was on your side. “This rotten horrible terrible scoundrel destroyed my city. Kill him.”

“No he didn’t.”

He didn’t?

“I did it,” she said. She did? “Your room was a mess. I had enough. I told you a million times to clean it up. You didn’t listen. And I came in here this morning and found Lego scattered all over the floor. I almost tripped and died walking across the room. I put all your Lego in a box and vacuumed the floor. You are lucky I didn’t throw it all away. Your room is finally clean. You should thank me.”

Now what? You should probably apologize to your brother.

Don’t jump to conclusions. When you see something, you may think the situation is obvious. But it isn’t. If you are missing information, you don’t know what happened. And when you think you know what happened, you don’t. Most assumptions are usually wrong.

And what happens? You get mad, angry, and frustrated. You get annoyed. You yell, scream, threaten, and accuse. And your anger is for nothing. It is directed at an innocent person. Not cool. And when the truth comes out, you feel bad.

And worse, you feel really stupid.

That’s why it is a mitzvah to judge people favorably. You don’t know what happened. You don’t know everything. You don’t have all the facts. So don’t assume the worst.

Assume the best.

Assume the person can explain what happened. Assume he has a reason. He usually can. And when he does, you can laugh about it. You can tell him how fishy he looked. Tell him that you thought he had a lot of explaining to do. Ha ha.

And if you don’t like his answer, you can talk about it. You will be calm and he won’t be threatened. And at least you didn’t get angry for nothing.

Try it. Judge other people favorably. You will be glad you did.

The other guy will be too.

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