As a pastor, I've had to work out my fair share of disputes and disagreements between people. I've heard the usual stories. "Pastor Mark, Sally said BLANK to me." "Jimmy just hit Bobby and Bobby wasn't doing anything wrong Pastor Mark" Some have been more serious than that, but whatever the case, the funniest thing happens. If I'm not careful, whoever talks to me first gets me on their side from the start. Its funny what hearing only half of the story can convince you of.
My favorite example of this comes from Pastor Mark Driscoll.
A woman came to his office once and told him that she wanted Pastor Mark's help in dealing with her husband. The woman was distraught and in tears. She showed him a small bruise on her forearm and told him that her husband had grabbed her arm, forced her down onto the floor, and yelled at her.
The day came and both the husband and wife were in Pastor Mark's office. Calmly, Pastor Mark asked, "Did you give her this bruise? Did you grab her and pin her on the floor and yell at her?" The husband said, "Yes, but did she tell you why?" Pastor Mark was about ready to start screaming, but he let the man share his side of the story. And it totally changed everything.
"We were sitting down at the table and having dinner. My wife started yelling at me about some things and I asked her to calm down. She got up in a huff and grabbed a thick plate from the table and hit me in the head with it." The man pulled his hair back and revealed a nasty cut on his head. "I was shocked and when she kept swinging at me, I grabbed her arm and pinned her to the floor and yelled at her to calm down."
Pastor Mark's jaw dropped. "Is this true," he asked the wife. She nodded yes.
When something goes down and you aren't there to see it, don't just believe the first person who tells you about it. They might be telling you only half of the story and conveniently leaving things out or overemphasizing other things.
As a pastor, its important for me to get every side of the story before I start drawing any conclusions, making assumptions, or siding with people. It can be quite difficult at times.
But things like this happened with me even before I was a pastor. Whether you are in junior high, high school, at work, or at home, there will be drama. Whether its a boyfriend and girlfriend splitting up, a friend saying something behind your back, a coworker manipulating for the promotion, or a family member confiding in you... drama is drama. People are going to get into fights and arguments. People are going to say things. People are going to cause problems.
You can believe the first person who comes to you with their side of the story. You can assume they've told you everything. You can make your judgments off of their word alone. You can run in to solve the problem and hold grudges against the villains in their story. And if you do, more often than not you will end up looking like a fool.
The next time a friend or student or colleague or cousin comes to you to present their case, don't think you know enough to make a judgment call. Remember that as innocent as the person talking to you may seem, nobody is perfect. Don't speak too soon. Get all of the facts, hear everyone out, and then maybe, just maybe, you'll have something helpful to say.
Can you think of a time you acted without hearing both sides of the story? How did that turn out? What could you do differently next time?
When someone shares their side of the story, how can you lovingly and kindly ask to hear the other person's side of it? What can you do to offend the person as little as possible with this request?
When you are the one in the drama, do you share the full story with those you tell? Or do you tell half of the truth to conveniently make yourself look like the angel or the victim? How can you change to be more honest? Is there anything you need to confess or admit to someone right now?