The Benefit of the Doubt
By Meghan Ryan
My mother, like many other mothers has a bunch of sayings: “Have you done your homework?” “Don’t wear pink and red together!” “Is your bed made yet?” But in the midst of all these are the pearls of wisdom, like “Keep a positive attitude,” and “Treat others like you’d want to be treated.” One insight in particular has helped me to understand the people around me. Over time I have learned that nothing is ever as it seems. So, like my mother, I’ve come to believe in the benefit of the doubt.
At school, not many others believe in this doctrine, however. Cliques clash with cliques and many people try to tear others down in order to build themselves up. In one memorable experience I was caught in the middle of a fight between two friends when one exclaimed in private, “Why is she so mean? I mean it’s not like she’s got anything wrong with her life.” The girl that said this, Sally, was stressed out about balancing school and extracurricular activities while struggling with some family problems. The other girl, Candace, was having family issues of her own and was suffering from heartbreak over her ex-boyfriend. Both Sally and Candace were making each others lives much harder than they had to be. Neither of them could understand that the other’s life was less then picture perfect.
There is no such thing as the picture perfect life. Even the celebrities on E! all have those days that end up on the covers of the tabloids with the title What was She Thinking? The overachiever whose mother had cancer, the rich girl who was in the hospital every other week and the dancer who was forced to move because of her parents’ divorce can all agree that nothing is ever as it seems. In circumstances like these, it’s easy to turn distant or mean. If the people who are affected by these frustrated folks use the benefit of the doubt, though, it becomes much simpler to emphasize with their pain.
Knowing that rich girl, that dancer, that overachiever and Candace and Sally, I have to believe in the benefit of the doubt. But this idea doesn’t just mean that there is grief in the world everywhere you turn. It means you can always find the best in people. There is no completely good or evil people in the world, there are just humans. The benefit of the doubt is a truly liberating concept, as you’re no longer forced to take sides; you can see any story through the eyes of both sides. Life is simpler when there is no longer the need to look for the good guy or the bad guy or where to place the blame. I believe that the world is a bit brighter with the benefit of the doubt.
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