By Robert Miller

The benefit of the doubt - are you willing to give it to other persons? Your answer will tell you a great deal about your faith in human nature.

The public mood today is rather hostile toward human failure. We're becoming more and more impatient with people who don't measure up to expected behavior. We are becoming more unwilling to give others the benefit of the doubt. When we stop giving others the benefit of the doubt, we are saying in principle that we believe they are unable to change their behavior.

Anytime we are willing to give others the benefit of the doubt we are saying we have faith in the possibility for them to change.

Have you ever been given a second chance? Has anyone - a parent, teacher, friend or boss - ever given you the benefit of the doubt? If you've never ever needed a second chance or a third or even a fourth or more chance, you are a rare individual. Many today are where we are because someone took a chance on us and gave us the benefit of the doubt. Faith is belief in the possibilities and potentialities of people.

Of all the things we can say to another person, is there is noting more helpful than "I have faith in you." This attitude of projecting our faith in others can be a powerful and positive force, but to withdraw it or erase it can destroy confidence. One can feel hopeless and lose power to go forward.

Maybe that's why it's alarming to find a growing hostility toward human failure. An impatience that says, "Jail him, kill him, drop him" rather than "help him, save him, believe in him."

Christian love is a very special way of giving others the benefit of the doubt, having faith in the potential of others and reflecting trust rather than doubt. This was the attitude Jesus had toward people he met. In his eyes there were no second-rate people. In the New Testament there are numerous examples of dramatic changes in people when they were in the presence of Jesus.

God gives us the benefit of the doubt and aren't you glad. Faith is a willingness to risk your belief in the potential of people just as God does.

Robert H. Miller, Jr. is a retired minister who lives in New Palestine, Ind.