Benefit of the Doubt

Sanjana Chekuri

14 April 2022

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I want to talk about a small change that I’ve made recently. This change has been liberating and has helped me stay in control of my mind. This change is called giving the benefit of the doubt. I’m sure we have all heard of this concept in the context of maintaining good relationships with people in our lives. But, have we thought of this concept in the context of maintaining a healthy relationship with our minds?

A human mind is a complex place where so much goes on with our thoughts and emotions. The mind is the place where constructive and intrusive thoughts that dictate your external behavior are created. I recently read a mind-boggling quote by Charles R. Swindoll that states “life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it”. This quote illustrates how 90% of our lives are dictated by the output of that complex place, so why not shape it to be as constructive as possible?

My approach to this was to start giving people and situations the benefit of the doubt to combat the intrusive thoughts we all face as humans. When another person’s behavior or a situation doesn’t align with our own mind’s construct, such as a friend canceling a plan last minute about, it is the human tendency to feel disappointed and spiral upon a few intrusive thoughts that take away from your precious time of being present in the moment. We may express something externally that might not necessarily match the internal thought process. From my experience, liberating yourself comes from bridging that gap between your words and your thoughts. By replacing the thought “ugh I’m so disappointed in her/him for bailing on me” with “maybe something came up or maybe nothing came up but whatever the reason is, I respect the decision” you start cutting down the intrusive thoughts. This is not to say that people are always perfect but working on our mindset, regardless of the reality of things, helps us create a feedback loop of constructive thoughts.

I have followed many motivational speakers for years who preached the value of positive thinking in every situation to enhance the quality of life and I had a tough time believing that was always feasible. However, the more I started practicing the feedback loop of positive thinking by giving benefit of the doubt, the more addicting it started to get. That’s how I came to realize that giving benefit of the doubt is a way to liberate our thoughts and maintain a healthy relationship with our minds.

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