The Other Side of the Story
Hillel said... "Don't judge a friend until you reach his place." (Pirkei Avos 2:5)
One of the obstacles to judging people favorably is our certainty that if we would be in that person's place we would never behave that way:
"You'd never catch me doing that..."
"No one in my family would ever..."
"I simply don't understand how anyone could..."
Although we might feel our situation to be similar to that of another person, can we ever be in exactly the same situation? Can we bring to it the exact same background, experience and disposition and circumstance?
Judging favorably means finding excuses for questionable behavior, excuses which make sense to us and leave us with a positive feeling towards the person in question. When we find ourselves suspecting others, we must ask ourselves: Are there any redeeming factors? Did I miss something? Did I jump to the wrong conclusion? For instance, take the following case
An aide of the Skulener Rebbe, Rabbi Eliezer Zusia Portugal, once related: Among the many people whom the Rebbe had rescued from Europe was a woman who had informed the Rumanian government of his religious activities, which led to his arrest and imprisonment. Why go to such effort and expense to save a person of her ilk?
"You have no idea how much she suffered beforehand, and how tempting the authorities make it to inform," the Rebbe said with tears in his eyes.
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