By David Hegg
For many of us, Paul Harvey will always hold a special place in our memories. I especially appreciated the segments this outstanding newsman called “The Rest of the Story.”
He would take the time to give the unknown but significant details of a popular life or event, and at the end finish with, “and now you know the rest of the story.” For me those were often “aha” moments.
It has often been the case in my life that I have made assumptions and jumped to false conclusions simply because I failed to find out “the rest of the story.” And I’m not the only one. I am amazed at how quickly people will jump to criticize based on shreds of conversations, or personal interpretations of the actions of others.
Have you ever gotten mad at someone only to find out to your embarrassment that you lacked that key piece of evidence that changed everything?
A story is told of a conference speaker who had brought his wife and young children to the conference center where he was to speak for several days. The campus was beautiful, especially the carefully landscaped slope in front of the executive dining hall. As the conference began, the campus director specifically asked the attendees to keep their children off of the slope as it had just been planted with hundreds of colorful flowers. The speaker carefully asked his children to obey the rule, and stay off of the slope.
A couple days later, as they awaited the lunch bell, the speaker suddenly saw his 4-year-old son joyfully scrambling up the inviting slope, flowers being kicked and thrown aside in his wake. His father began shouting and running to his son, his temper fueled by the embarrassment of having the whole conference see his son ruining the landscape.
“Get off the slope! Get off the slope!” he yelled, coming up roughly behind his son to swoop him up in great indignation.
He quickly took the boy aside to the privacy of their cabin, and as he prepared to administer some well-deserved punishment, he heard his young son ask, “Daddy, what’s a slope?”
We can all identify with the father’s anger, but I’m sure we can also identify with his shame as he realized that his son wasn’t rebellious, but only unknowing. Knowing the rest of the story changed everything.
In our world today it is too often the case that we jump to conclusions. We hear a comment, read a sentence or hear some gossip, and we start down a road that ends with hurt feelings, anger, and unwarranted criticism. So, I’ve come up with a suggestion. Next time you’re tempted to believe something bad about someone, go to them and offer them the chance to explain. And start with these words: “Help me understand.”
Do you think someone has acted in a hurtful way, or said something that seems out of character? Before you jump to conclusions, go ask them, “Help me understand how you’re feeling, why you’re acting this way.”
As a pastor, I have people come to me all the time with stories of how someone has hurt them, or not supported them, or acted in a way that they believe demands my correction. And too many times I have believed the first report only to find out later the rest of the story that changed everything. So now I usually suspend judgment until I have the chance to ask the other party, “Help me understand” what is going on, how you’re involved, and how you perceive the situation.
Actually, the problem of jumping to conclusions, and advice on how to avoid these situations, can be traced back to the ancients. A wise scholar once wrote, “The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him.” (Proverbs 18:17).
Remember, it is a thing of great value and virtue to make sure you get the rest of the story before coming to a conclusion. Not only will you be in a better position to solve a potential problem, but also you’ll save yourself both embarrassment and pain.
David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church and a Santa Clarita resident.“Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.