We’ve all probably been the victim of the telephone game. Someone starts a rumor and before its veracity can be obtained, other people have heard it and passed it on. By the time that we are aware of it, our ability to combat it is limited. This is made all the more difficult if there is any truth to the rumor. After all, something that has believability is more likely to spread than something that is outrightly laughable. Getting the whole truth out, however, can seem like a surmountable task.
Despite our familiarity with being on the wrong side of a quickly spreading falsehood, we are often far too eager to believe the news we hear with our own ears. We are told of the poor treatment that one person received at the hands of another and we are eager to offer our sympathy and advice. We form opinions of others based on the information we receive from third-parties, even to the extent that we may “dislike” someone with whom we have never interacted. We defend positions and take sides even when it’s only one person’s story that we’ve heard.
The Bible warns against this. In Proverbs 18:17 it states:
The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.
A story’s veracity seems plausible until we hear the other side of it. Rather than solidifying our positions based on someone else’s words and experiences, we would be wise to withhold judgement until we have a fuller picture.
If we think about it – we have experience the wisdom of this in our everyday lives. Whether it’s listening to a news story be corrected because the reporter initially got the facts wrong, or coming into contact with someone that we previously “disliked” only to discover the richness of their character and convictions, we know from experience that while first impressions may be powerful, their long-term accuracy leaves a lot to be desired. Using discernment to know when to form our opinions can be just as important as using discernment to evaluate how they should be formed. “Rushing to judgment” rarely serves anyone well.
The one exception that must be noted is if something is done that is a clear violation of God’s standards. We can have confidence to evaluate those actions by the directives of His Words as we know that HIs perspective on such behavior will not change with time. However, unless we are witness to it or the person who committed the act tells it to us themselves, we would be wise to refer back to Proverbs and recognize that what we hear from another is rarely a reliable description of what truly occurred.
Let us commit then not to be one-sided arbitrators. Instead, may we exercise discernment and discretion, recognizing that there is a reason that hindsight is so frequently extolled.