16 The Benefit of the Doubt


We’ve finally reached the last of 16 quotes/statements that make up my Fletchifesto. I hid this one in the bottom right corner because it serves as a foundational belief in my life. But, that does not mean I remember to follow this principle.

I really feel that I need to be reminded of this idea everyday.

After nearly 50 years of living as a self-professed optimistic positive person, I am shocked that I can still become so quickly offended by the actions of others. Do you know what else I've recognized? The closer the relationship, the easier the offense. That’s why a daily reminder to give someone the benefit of the doubt is included in my manifest.

I recently read Brant Hansen's book, Unoffendable. If you are a follow Jesus, you really should read this book twice. Why twice? Because the first time you read his book, you will probably argue with the author the entire time. By reading it a second time, you will have the opportunity to consider what he is actually saying.

Brant's premise is this: As a follower of Jesus, you really have no right to be offended or to respond in anger to others. What about righteous anger? What about anger toward sin? Yeah, Brant addresses that in his book, but that's not what I want to dwell on in this blog post.When I think about giving others the benefit of the doubt, I am focusing on what it means to start from a position that says: I choose to be unoffendable.

You would think that after 26 years of marriage, Kendra and I would know how to avoid conflict. However, there are still times when our rivers of marital bliss conjoin at the rapids of conflict and we snap at each other in inappropriate ways.

If I focus just on my wife, her behavior or her words in the moment, it could easily lead to me dwelling on the offense (I'm no saint, that's typically what happens - remember why this point is included in The Fletchifesto - I need a daily reminder). But, if I can remember to step out of the moment and see what led up to our interaction, I will often find my own culpability or a much larger issue leading to our point of conflict.

You see, I'm often blind to my own offensive behavior, but I have 20/20 focused vision when it comes to others shortcomings. If I could take the time and give my wife the benefit of the doubt, I would find that she did not walk into the situation with malicious intent. Often when things go sideways in our marriage we will stop and say: "Hey, remember, I'm on your team here. I'm focusing on your best." In those moments, what we are actually saying is, I'm giving the benefit of the doubt. I'm not purposefully trying to offend you.

What about kids? It can be so difficult for us as the "smart parents" to give our kids the benefit of the doubt. More often than not, children do not intend to offend, but they often catch us in a weak moment. Let's learn to give those little suckers the benefit of the doubt.

Coworkers? Maybe you work in a horrible cut-throat environment. If that's the case for you, can I encourage you to find a new job. But for the rest of us who work in a healthy environment, what would it look like to give each other the benefit of the doubt? Would it reduce unnecessary conflict. Yes. I promise it will.

There are two sides to every story. Solomon says in Proverbs 18: "The person who tells one side of a story seems right, until someone else comes and asks questions." Give each other the benefit of the doubt. Live unoffendable. Give up your right to be angry. Watch what happens.

Thanks for reading my Fletchifesto. If you want your own printed copy. Let me know. I'll send it to you.

Quietly making noise,