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Generosity of Interpretation

Published: October 14, 2021      Updated: October 14, 2021


October 14, 2021
Several weeks ago, I had a topic in mind to write about but I took a detour. As I’m writing this, I can’t recall why I was so set on sharing this with you but I know I had a strong conviction to write on generosity, not generosity in the sense of giving, but generosity of interpretation. 
Shortly after becoming the principal at Conejo, I attended some meetings hosted for educational leaders out in Ontario. One of the sessions I attended opened my mind to a new perspective regarding my thoughts about other people. The speaker was the provost at La Sierra University and he told a story about driving his injured dog to the vet. He lived outside of town and had to travel on a narrow two lane road to reach help for his pet that had dislocated his leg. The dog was in pain and howling as he drove as fast as possible until he caught up to the car in front of him. He quickly approached the car and tried his best to pass the vehicle but the driver went out of his way to block him from passing. The journey continued with the provost trying to pass and the driver in front not only blocking him but also slowing down making the trip even longer than necessary. 
After this painfully slow and pain-filled incident, the speaker had time to reflect on how his actions appeared to the driver in front of him. Pick-up truck driver speeding on a two-lane road. Pick-up truck driver tailgating. Pick-up truck driver repeatedly attempting to pass. He concluded the car in front of him must have thought he was being an aggressive, out-of-control driver and he was going to put him in his place. Had the driver in front of him realized he was just trying to get his dog help as quickly as possible, he would surely have pulled to the side and let him pass. Generosity of interpretation. Thinking the best of a person even without knowing the whole story. I love this concept. 
Rarely does a person wake up and decide she is going to go out of her way to ruin another person’s day. When I believe that statement, it changes my mindset. Just like the driver of the car couldn’t see or hear the howling dog in pain, I can’t see or hear inside the mind of another person. There is no way for me to know what caused person x to…but I can be fairly certain that action had nothing to do with me and isn’t a personal attack against me. Generosity of interpretation. I will think the best of a person’s intentions. Generosity of interpretation releases me from negativity and irritation. Not an easy task in our current world to put aside my preconceived conclusions about a person or a situation but a welcome reprieve for my overactive mind.
True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.  C.S. Lewis