I once heard a phrase that went something like this, - think the best of someone and if you are wrong, the fault is theirs. Think the worst of someone and if you are wrong, the fault is yours.
I was reminded of this while out hiking a couple weeks ago with John Bradford from Wilderness Outreach. We were discussing the fact that we, as fallen men, can have false beliefs about things and people.
He gave the personal example of how he feels about people who tailgate him while driving. He said he usually has this nearly uncontrollable urge to make them pull over, drag them from the car, pulverize them, and then ask why they were doing that. He said he realized, with the help of a priest friend, that he was assuming the worst. He was seeing those people tailgating as evil, as hateful, as scum, as idiots and the like. He wasn't seeing them as someone who was racing to be with a dying parent. He didn't see them as someone whose month-old child had recently been diagnosed with cancer. He didn't think the best or try to imagine why this person might be acting this way.
As we continued hiking I stooped to pick up an empty Coke bottle someone had left on the trail. In the time it took for me to pick it up and ask John to throw it in my backpack, I had saw, judged, and condemned the person to whom it belonged. I saw this person thumbing his or her nose at God and his creation while spitting on the ground and tossing the Coke bottle in contempt. All of this I imagined. It never happened. I thought the worst. For all I know, that person could have felt absolutely terrible when he or she returned from a hike to find that it had fallen out of their pack.
My tendency is to see others in this negative light and I think it says a lot about me. And what it says is not good, I need serious work. It will take a concerted effort on my part to reprogram my thinking. It will take work to see people and their actions with a more positive light but with God's grace I can do it.
So, how do you see others? Do you try to see the best in them and their intentions or do you jump to conclusions, accuse, and condemn? It's something to pray about.