The Benefit of the Doubt

by Michelle Lasley

Michelle Lasley is a mother, wife in Pacific Northwest learning to balance green dreams with budget realities.

February 12, 2011


Categories: One a Day, Post a Day 2011

"Santa's" gift  to Levi.

Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

A phrase I grew up with, but once I type it out, it sounds absurd. So, I (naturally) Googled it.

The phrase is quite literal,

“benefit”… something given as a gift
“doubt”… disbelief

I’ll give you the gift of not believing.

Which sounds perhaps like an oxymoron when not used in context.

Say someone is shot and you find your friend with a smoking gun in their hand. Anyone else would believe that they were naturally the shooter. But you give them the benefit of the doubt and let them explain why they have the gun.

It’s also commonly used as “Even if I gave you the benefit of the doubt, ” meaning that there is no way it isn’t true.

“Even if I gave you the benefit of the doubt that you found the gun, what were you doing in his room?”.

It’s origin is assuredly colloquial, as it’s a legitimate use of English that only needed to be discovered in a catchy phrase.

Read more: What does the phrase mean, “benefit of the doubt” or “give the benefit of the doubt” and how was that originated? | Answerbag

I’m rereading parts of the Five Dysfunctions of a Team. One thing he points out, in lack of trust (the 1st dysfunction) is how we look to the negative in group settings. When we look to the negative, instead of, for example, giving people the benefit of the doubt, we tend to protect our own interests. We revert to selfishness and competitiveness instead of doing what is best for the group, so we have no conflict. Without conflict, we can’t grow. We can’t improve. We can’t evolve.

The Golden Rule. I must remember the Golden Rule. If I expect others to give the benefit of the doubt, I must also be the same.

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