It is easy to get bent out of shape when someone rubs us the wrong way. When methods are hurtful we often assume that motives are evil.
I was on high alert around her. This woman had hurt my feelings in the past and so my defenses were up with each interaction we had. The offenses had mounted and I had trouble trusting her motive, even when we had positive interactions.
Then I heard a message, from a pastor at a conference, that helped me distinguish between method and motive. I’m not sure if the ideas he shared were original with him but the impact of his message helped bring freedom and revelation to my guarded heart.
He explained that many of us, in conflict, will judge the other person’s motive based on their methods. For example, if this woman criticized me about a creative project then I assumed that she didn’t like me or care for me. Since her method of critique was insensitive, I began to think that her motive was to hurt me. She may just not have liked how I completed a task, but I took it personally because of our history.
I had also gone so far as to assume that a leader I knew had an evil heart because his communication approach was sometimes unhealthy and hurtful. As this pastor pointed out, I was not giving the benefit of charity to this leader. I was judging his motive based on his methods.
Now, hear me out, sometimes people have evil motives—to harm us and do damage. I’m not saying to just roll over and let wickedness reign; not at all.
But how many times do we let the enemy cause division because we assume we know another’s intent because their approach is less-than-ideal?
We are all flawed. We all sin. Sometimes our motives are not above board, but often it’s our methods that need adjusting.
This whole “benefit of charity” idea has stuck with me. It’s basically giving someone the benefit of the doubt. It’s not assuming the worst nor jumping to conclusions. It’s not nursing hurts and recounting offenses but it’s a commitment to see the best in others, whenever possible.
Maybe their method is not the best way to go about things, but that doesn't mean that they intend harm.
Let's learn to live with less offense and more grace and exchange our revengeful attitude for a Christlike one.
Here are some simple statements to help you get started in extending grace instead of judgment:
- I didn’t like the way that person handled that, but that doesn’t mean they are a bad person.
- That family member spoke to me rudely but that doesn’t mean they don’t love me.
- I am offended by the fact that my boss belittled me, but that doesn’t mean I can never trust him again.
- Just because someone has immature communication skills doesn’t give me the right to write off everything they say.
Here are some practical ideas to implement as we learn how to extend the benefit of charity:
- When upset I will ask God to help me express my emotions in a life-giving way—without crushing the spirit of another.
- When offended I am committed to ask clarifying questions instead of making accusatory statements.
- Instead of assuming the worst, I will exercise the benefit of charity to those whose methods need tweaking.
- Unless the person is toxic, dangerous or has a proven tract record of ill intent, I will not automatically judge their motives based on their methods.
Let’s stop the cycle of judgment by leaning into the One who extends grace and love to us on a daily basis.
We are so far from perfect. Thank You that we don’t have to be because You’ve already taken care of that, on the cross—You exchanged our sin for Your perfection.
Forgive us for standing in Your place as judge. We confess that we often assume the worst and judge the heart based on outward behaviors.
Only You know what is going on inside each one of us. Only You know our true motives. Help us to be wise in our interactions with others. Reveal to us when there is evil intent but also aid us in knowing when to extend the benefit of charity.
Thank You that You don’t write us off when our methods are less that ideal. Help us to have pure motives and to treat others as we want to be treated, and as You have instructed in Your Word.
Thank You for all the benefits that we receive by being Your children—forgiveness, grace, eternal inheritance and an abiding relationship with You.
Related Video: How do we heal after others hurt us?
Katie M. Reid is a tightly wound woman who fumbles to receive and extend grace in everyday moments. She delights in her husband, four children and their life in ministry. Through writing, singing, speaking and photography Katie encourages others to find grace in the unraveling of life. She has an album, Echoes of My Heart, and is a writer for God-sized Dreams and Purposeful Faith. She blogs at katiemreid.com and can be found on Twitter @Katie_M_Reid