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The Principle of Charity

In philosophy and rhetoric, the principle of charity requires interpreting a speaker’s statements in the most rational way possible and, in the case of any argument, considering its best, strongest possible interpretation

Early in my relationship, I would say stupid things that would rub my partner the wrong way. They weren’t intentionally hurt but they were hurtful to her nonetheless.

After much communication, we unearthed the reason for these hard feelings; she was not assuming that I had her best interests in mind. That I didn’t have her best interests at heart.

Further down my enlightenment journey, I learned that this is known as the Principle of Charity. Where, in philosophy, you assume the most charitable form of an argument.

This is so wonderfully applicable in so many areas of life. In romantic relationships, in disagreements, in business but perhaps none so important than the dynamic within our country today.

It seems we’ve decided that an enemy, hellbent on our destruction, inhabits the other half of our country.

They are idiots. They are racist. They are corrupt. They are dangerous. They are irredeemable. And they should be dealt with in the harshest of ways.

But what if this wasn’t true? What if we’ve simply been manipulated by organizations incentivized by spreading paranoia? What if instead we actually weren’t that different at all?

And what if the best way to see this truth was to assume the best in our countrymen? To assume that regardless of what we’re told we should think of Democrats or Republicans, we should assume that they are first and foremost human beings who care about their families, just like you and me.

What if we viewed our countrymen as a flawed family instead of a dangerous enemy? Would that lead to more coherent conversations? God forbid find some common ground?

Assume the best in each other. Only then can we start to heal these wounds.

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