We have all done it. A chunk of data finds its way onto the hard drive of our mind and we select a folder, place that data within us, and encrypt so it cannot be accessed, or deleted by another. We have all made snap-judgments, formulated prejudices and rendered verdicts without having the necessary component of knowing the full disclosure of details.
A friend is suspicious that her husband is cheating and you say, “He’s probably guilty. Men cheat!”
An internet news site reports allegations of a politician accused of misappropriation of funds and we leap past the indictment, trial date and verdict from the jury to declare on our own that she has clearly violated her oath of office.
Someone passes us in the hallway and doesn’t smile or speak and we decide that they have something against us or that they are simply rude. Truth is, they were focused on something else or late for a meeting or… maybe needed to get to the bathroom quickly.
It amazes me how many people were convinced that they knew and understood President Obama fully, and spent eight years verbally defecating on him. The same is happening with President Trump who will likely only be welcomed to endure four years of onslaught from those who think they have him summed up.
Steven Covey tells of a subway ride that suddenly went from peaceful to chaotic when a man and several of his small children entered the train. The children were incredibly loud and obnoxious, throwing things at one another and grabbing the other passengers’ personal belongings. After a few minutes, and fed up with the father’s lack of involvement to stop his children, Steven Covey, verbally challenged the father to get his children under control. Covey continues the story as he writes, “The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, ‘Oh, you’re right. I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.’
You and I often think we know the whole story. We rarely, if ever do.
“The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” – Proverbs 18:17
You and I have a tendency to draw premature conclusions about people. We sometimes believe the first side of a conflict without ever hearing from the other side of the aisle. We live in a sensationalist-society which lends itself to making it more convenient to jump on the most accessible bandwagon. Sometimes we fail to see that the bandwagon was headed in the wrong direction when we climbed aboard. Sometimes we are too stubborn to get off even after we sense that it is carrying us away from truth or reality.
Take your time with declaring your dogma. I make my living by being dogmatic about things so, trust me, I have had to work through this myself and my own record is far from perfect. The unfortunate experience of prematurely judging a matter has been mine – and it always comes with some level of regret. I also know the sting of being in the line of fire from someone else’s early verdict – again, this always comes with regret. The Apostle James taught us to be “swift to hear and slow to speak” (James 1:19). Listen harder than you speak. Being wrong about things is bad enough on its own. Being wrong about people has a long lasting ripple effect that serves to foster hurt, confusion and potential bitterness in our relationships. Sometimes we cannot avoid drawing conclusions and making dogmatic declarations. Sometimes we have to make the tough call. Sometimes we must let others know what we think.
Yet we will feel much better when we do so if we wait on understanding the whole story, and then marinate our final conclusions in grace, mercy and love. After all, that is what God did for us.
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