One of my favorite memories from growing up were mornings and breakfasts together with my siblings. All four of us kids would sit on our stools at the kitchen counter, eating cereal.
We ate cereal most week day mornings, not because it was easy and quick. But because my siblings and I loved it – especially the sugary kinds. We were only allowed to have one of those after we’d had a bowl of the healthy kind (Cheerios, Mini Wheats, Chex). We would wolf down a bowl of the boring stuff, and then it was on to the real fun. I just remember being so excited when my Cheerios were eaten, and I could choose a sweet kind. Our favorites were Capt’n Crunch, Lucky Charms, Trix, Fruit Loops… the list goes on. I still don’t know where Kix and Life fall into the categories. We also had this tradition of building cereal box forts around our bowls. We each had our special place at the counter, and we would use 3 or 4 boxes to build a little cave around our place. We would then proceed to read the backs of the boxes and discuss them with each other. We were cereal junkies. It was a huge part of my childhood.
Along with our cereal games in the mornings, my mom would usually give us a mini Bible study to get our day off to the right start. She would read some Scripture, maybe a commentary on it, or sometimes she would have us all memorize a passage from the Bible together.
On this particular morning, she was reading a Matthew Henry commentary on the verse, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:7). Henry pointed out that to “believe all things” of somebody is to try to believe the best of them, when you could believe the worst. It’s giving somebody the benefit of the doubt. All this my mom explained to us, and I remember it was a totally new concept to me – I’d never thought about it before. To believe something good about someone instead of something bad, when you have the choice to do either was going to be hard to do. And I think I realized that that day at the breakfast table. I guess I sort of meditated on it all day, because while playing with my siblings, I kept running into the choice of giving them benefit of the doubt or not. I remember the words “benefit of the doubt” playing over and over in my head, and I kept forgetting what it all meant. I had to keep reminding myself that it meant believing the best about somebody instead of the worst. Maybe I was still too young to quite wrap my mind around it.
I still, of course, run into the choice of the benefit of the doubt every day. It’s hard. When I’m not sure if somebody is being hurtful or not, it’s so easy to believe that they are – to believe the worst. The things is, that we can’t see into other people’s hearts. That’s God’s job. And others may have perfectly fine intentions. We don’t know. And since we don’t know, we ought to yes, give them the benefit of the doubt. Countless times, others have given me the benefit of the doubt. When I think back to these times, I remember how nice it is to be thought the best of instead of the worst.
And to make it easier for me to get the hang of it, I have someone sitting right next to me who is a master at giving the benefit of the doubt. Yep, my husband. I see him “believe all things” of me and others every day. I see him assuming the best of people when I often assume the worst. And it’s hard, of course! But he does it anyway, and usually it ends up that he’s right and I’m wrong.