Doubt. It’s not a comfortable feeling. Uncertainty, lack of conviction, even fear can be associated with doubt. So, what is the meant by the benefit of the doubt? Isn’t a benefit supposed to be a good thing? Benefit means profit, gain, or even raising funds for a charitable cause. When we extend the benefit of the doubt to someone, we are actually giving a gift, both to ourselves, and to the other person.
If we can withhold judgement when we are faced with a situation that makes us uncomfortable, angry, disappointed, or sparks negative emotion in some other way, we are allowing ourselves the gift of doubt. Stopping, not taking things strictly on surface appearance, doubting can be a really positive feeling.
Doubt can spark questioning, and questioning can create wonder. Wonder can lead to amazing discoveries, both about ourselves and others. If we didn’t question, what would we really learn? Doubt paired with curiosity can be a road to discovery. New understanding, increased knowledge, and a sense of empathy can develop when we have the curiosity to discover what lies beneath the doubt.
We are not expected to know everything. Doubt can be a healthy and protective force. However, the underlying cause for doubt should be explored.
When someone does or says something that strikes us negatively, our instinct is to react with anger or hurt. However, when we can give the benefit of the doubt, and think about...even ask what made them say or do the thing that was hurtful, we can discover a lot, both about ourselves and about others. Extending empathy can be a way to heal. Listening, being patient, seeking for real understanding can be transformative.
When we reach out instead of react, because we took a moment to think, doubt has amazing power. So, see if you can extend the benefit of the doubt one time today, in a situation that would otherwise tend to make you rush to judgement. How does it change your reaction? How does it change your mindset? How does it change the rest of your day? How does it change the person to whom you extended this gift?
Now here’s the twist. Can we extend the same benefit to ourselves? Can we give ourselves the benefit of the doubt, not rushing to judgement, not being so hard on ourselves? Don’t we deserve the same empathy we extend to others? I think we not only deserve it, but it is essential to learning more about ourselves.
The benefit of the doubt is just another tool we all have to help us navigate our way through fraught situations, difficult personalities, and our own reactions. Be confident, give the gift of compassion.