Trillia Newbell: The mind of a pessimist

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Monday, June 17th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Commentator Trillia Newbell has some thoughts now on the Christian response to pessimism.

TRILLIA NEWBELL, COMMENTATOR: Recently, I read a compelling article by pastor and writer Kevin DeYoung. The title sums up the topic: “Distinguishing Marks of a Quarrelsome Person.” The entire article is worth a read, but the point that stuck out to me was No. 5.

He described it this way—quote—“You never give the benefit of the doubt. You do not try to read arguments in context. You put the worst possible construct on other’s motives, and when there is a less flattering interpretation, you go for that one.” End quote.

The trouble with the internet is that we often forget there’s a living, breathing, human being behind those posts and most avatars. That means when someone types something, that someone is made in the image of God.

This knowledge should inform how we engage with that person. The great commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves should guide our actions.

There are numerous ways we could apply this love of neighbor. But 1 Corinthians is especially helpful for believing the best. It says, “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:7).

When historians write about our current culture, I imagine descriptors such as skepticism and cynicism. You and I might be given to mistrust others. Social media doesn’t help. The stream of words, elevated tensions, and outrage culture don’t bode well for believing the best in others.

But that is exactly what we Christians are called to do. Until proven otherwise, we have to fight to believe the best in others. We want to hope the best for others. And patiently endure with one another.

I acknowledge that this is easier said than done. But in the end, it is worth it! I’ll give you three reasons why:

First, it is worth fighting to believe the best for our own benefit. I can’t recount the many times I’ve assumed the wrong thing and then had to ask for forgiveness for it. Assuming ill motive can lead to unnecessary distress, frustration, or even anger.

Second, it is worth fighting to believe the best for our neighbor. I’ve watched reputations get dragged in the mud because of a misunderstanding. I’ve seen people be falsely accused of wrongdoing and spend countless hours trying to fix it. People even lose their jobs and go into hiding because a misperception is stated as fact.

And third, ultimately it’s worth it for our witness. Jesus told us that people will know that we our His disciples by our love for one another. How we respond and react to others matters. How we treat others, even those who seem faceless, bears witness to our Savior and what we believe.

On our own, we can’t extend the love God commands of us. So we ask Him to help us.

And the next time we are tempted to think the worst about another person, we stop and ask: Would I want them to assume this about me?

For WORLD Radio, I’m Trillia Newbell.

(Photo/Creative Commons)

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