Have you ever been driving behind another vehicle that was going slowly and you thought, "What in the world?!" Well, when this would happen when my children were younger, I would play the Maybe Game with them to not only turn a frustrating time into a fun time, but also to teach them patience with others. The game would go something like this:
Evy: Why are they going so slow?!
Mom: Well, maybe they aren't sure where to turn. Or maybe they lost their dog and they are looking for him. Can you think of any other reason they might be going slowly?
Capers: Maybe they are running out of gas.
Colton: Maybe they don't know how to drive.
Mom: Maybe they are transporting a wedding cake.
Capers: Maybe their brakes went out.
Evy: Maybe they LIKE to drive slowly.
Capers: Maybe they are going to the dentist and they don't want to.
Mom: Maybe they had foot surgery and it hurts to press the gas pedal.
Colton: Maybe they want us to run into the back of them so they can collect the insurance money.
Evy: Maybe it's a solar car and it's just not sunny enough.
You get the idea. We would come up with every possible explanation for why someone was behaving in that manner. This just pointed out the one fact that we knew for sure: we DIDN'T KNOW why they were driving slowly.
There are lots of times that I hope others are playing the Maybe Game with me: those days when I really just can't manage a smile, or I didn't have much time to fix my hair, or I really needed to stay in bed but had a responsibility at church. There are lots of times in all of our lives that we just aren't 100%. We need to be especially understanding of each other during those times.
I remember visiting a friend in another state a few years back and, for a couple of hours, I was obviously out of sorts. I was emotional and not very cheerful. My friend put her arm around me and told me she didn't know what I was going through but that she loved me and would be glad to talk with me about it when I was ready. Then she walked away and gave me space. Knowing that she had an understanding heart and that my mood didn't change her commitment to me as a friend made me feel so much better. The problem eventually was resolved and I don't even remember what it was now, but I do remember that my friend had a "Maybe Game" attitude and I was reassured that our friendship was there whether I was friendly at the moment or not. She could have reacted differently, playing a different type of game in her mind. She could have played the "Forget Her!" game. She could have thought, "What's her problem? She comes all this way to see me and treats me like this? I'm doing my best to entertain this chick and she acts mad? She's not much fun to be around." If you know anyone for any length of time, you will eventually see them on a low day. Friends help each other through those times. That's the beauty of friendship.
There's another use for the Maybe Game. It's not only for when you have NO idea what's going on with someone. It's also for when you have SOME information and are tempted to draw a conclusion. This is how we judge others when judging others is not our place. That's God's job. When I am tempted to decide about someone's motivation based on the supposed "evidence" that I have, I just hit the pause button on my brain and tell myself not to think one more thought about it. I do not know everything there is to know about the situation and it's not my job to decide about it anyway.
If you play the Maybe Game when you see a picture of someone with a new car, you could come up with these possibilities:
He is rich.
He is now poor because he just spent all his money on a car.
He had just enough money to make a down payment and get in big debt paying monthly payments on a new car.
His dad had a dying wish of being able to buy his son a new car in his lifetime and the son is smiling in the picture knowing it made his dad so happy.
He has done without many things in order to save for the purchase of a new car.
He's just showing off.
He could have bought a much more expensive car but bought a modest one instead.
It's someone else's car. He is just posing with it.
Do you see how there could be many possible explanations for any situation? The fact is that we seldom have all the information we need to reach a right conclusion. Only God has all the facts. If we are not an authority in that person's life, we do not have to know why someone did something.
It says a lot about the condition of my heart if my initial response is that they had some evil reason for what they did, OR if my tendency is to give them the benefit of the doubt. Even when things look bad, I should be eager to think the best of someone. If that person finds out that you assumed they were out of line, it will be difficult to win that person's trust again.
I have made it a practice that I will not believe something bad about someone until I get verification from that person or a very reliable source. Too much false information and ill will can be mixed in with bits of truth for me to take someone else's word for it. We can easily get into judging someone's motivation when only God knows someone's heart. It is our job to be patient, to love, to forgive, to rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep.
Let's have an attitude of graciousness. Assume the best until proven otherwise. If someone has never given you reason to doubt them, do not instantly assume they are guilty. It should be easy to give someone a break if their behavior is very unusual for them. If you have to make a decision about an issue, do not do it until you have heard both sides. This is how to be a true friend and to give out some of that grace that has been so generously given to us.