Three Sides to Every Story

A Journal of Joy: Things that make my heart smile…

My mother died when I was in my early twenties but I’ve never forgotten the tidbits of knowledge she passed down to me during my formative years and it fills my heart with joy when I think of her. One thing she told me was, “Always remember that there are three sides to every story. Your side, their side, and what really happened.”

As a child it used to irritate me that she wouldn’t just accept my version of what happened. She would always want to get the full story. It was only when I grew up that I understood the wisdom of her advice. Here’s a true story that illustrates what she meant.

Years ago my husband and I worked near a pastor who was having some difficulties. Our headquarters labored diligently to help this man come to terms with his struggles. Finally, the pastor asked for and was granted a leave of absence so he could spend some reflective time praying and studying without the added responsibility of taking care of his church.

However, others who were not in our area heard that this man was treated unfairly and basically given the ax. Since we were in the adjacent area, we started receiving phone calls from all over the United States. “What a raw deal!” they would say. “How could they treat him that way?” Without sharing personal details of this man’s struggle, we assured our callers their information was faulty. Some believed us but others wanted to believe the worst, and so they did.

We learned a valuable lesson from this experience. How many times had we been guilty of making snap judgments or believing the worst without having all the facts?

It’s hard enough to accurately assess a predicament when we are knee-deep in it, much less forming opinions based on hearsay. Yet, life is filled with situations we must evaluate and sometimes even offer guidance. Teachers deal with student problems. Parents work with their children. Friends want to help friends. We in ministry are called upon to counsel others.

I often remember Mom’s “three sides to the story” principle when dealing with people. For example, when you are counseling a couple there is always his side, her side. and what really happened. If you are trying to sort out a sibling dispute, each has a version of what happened and then there is what really happened. Of course, the more people you have involved, the more “sides to the story” you will have. One hundred people can hear a sermon and each might have a different idea of what was said. Most of us don’t try to deliberately deceive in offering an account of what we think happened. We just all tend to see things from our point of view. Our perspective becomes our reality.

When we hear only one side of a story we need to be cautious about what we say. Sometimes those in dispute end up reconciling. Then the person we were talking with shares what we said about the other person, usually out of context, and we end up looking like the adversary. It can be difficult not to get caught up or emotionally involved in another person’s drama but it is better to keep our opinions to ourselves and just offer encouragement without taking sides.

In any case, it’s always wise to get as many facts as we can before forming an opinion about a situation—and it’s definitely better to think long and hard before sharing it with others.   


Dear heavenly Father, how many times have I jumped to conclusions about others only to find out I was wrong? That’s why I desperately need Your guidance, wisdom, and counsel so I can make accurate assessments of situations. Keep me from spreading unfounded rumors and gossip. Put in my heart to listen more and speak less. Let me view others through the eyes of Your love.

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