Nancy Roman

Taking Sides

Although I recently posted about giving people the benefit of the doubt, I admit that this practice doesn’t always work.

Most importantly, we should never explain away or excuse bigotry, violence, or abuse.

But even in more simple everyday ways, we need – when giving the benefit of the doubt – to make sure we are being generous to the right people.

Here’s a story a friend told me:

She and her husband were driving home from dinner. He was behind the wheel. They came to a four-way stop. Another car on their left got to the stop several seconds after they did. Just as her husband stepped on the gas to go, the other car jumped into the intersection and sped off, causing my friend’s husband to hit the brake hard in order to stop in time.

“Jesus  H. Christ,” the husband yelled. “What an asshole!”

And my friend, trying to calm him down, said, “Maybe he just didn’t see us.”

And later, telling me this story, my friend said to me, “That was such a stupid thing for me to say.”

And I understood right away what she meant.


Why not be on your husband’s side? What would it have cost her to be on his side?

If, when he had said, “What an asshole!” – she had said:

 “I KNOW! It was YOUR turn!”

Because what she really said didn’t make a single difference to the asshole driver – and it didn’t calm her husband down any either.

Believe me, I know.

I do it.

All the time.

I constantly tell people to think the best of others. I make excuses for people I do not know. And while thinking the best of others is the right thing for me to do, telling others to do so is not necessarily thinking the best of the people I am lecturing.

For as much I want to give people the benefit of the doubt, the people I love don’t always need a sermon on giving people the benefit of the doubt when they are upset. Sometimes they just want to be heard.

And acknowledged.

And have someone on their side.

So here is some advice – that you may find inconsistent with my earlier advice on giving people the benefit of the doubt. But I don’t think it is. I think maybe it’s that just a matter of choosing which person to give the benefit of the doubt to.

When you are not dealing with hatred or abuse, and when it won’t make a difference in any material way – BE ON THE SIDE OF THE PERSON YOU LOVE.

And even:

Be on the side of the person you know, even if it’s not quite love.

My boss once complained to me that the new HR directive added a ton of paperwork to her already busy day. I personally thought that the new documentation was long overdue, and I nicely said so. But it didn’t go over well with my boss. She was still angry and now she was angry with me too. What I see today is that it would not have betrayed my core values in any significant way to say, “I KNOW! What a lot of extra work this is for you!” 

I could have been on her side.

I know someone who often complains about a close relative. She’s hurt because the relative never includes her in his plans. In fact, he goes out of his way to keep his activities a secret so that he doesn’t have to include her. Or at least, that’s how my friend feels. I used to say, “I don’t think he meant to exclude you. He just probably didn’t think you would be interested,” or some such ‘benefit of the doubt’ platitude. Yes, I am contradicting myself. Yes, I was practicing my philosophy, but I may have (I know I was) giving the benefit of the doubt to the wrong party.  But I am learning. It happened again recently, and I said, “That’s terrible. He should be nicer to you!”

I was on her side.

I didn’t have to fix anything. I didn’t have to make it better. I just had to be on her side.

And I know that we should all teach kids to be nice. And to share. I believe there are so many moments when we can teach kids to be generous. But sometimes we can let up a little. Not long ago, I heard a kid crying to his mother that his brother took the last cookie that he wanted for himself. And I expected the mom to say something about being generous and letting his little brother have that cookie, and that would have been quite nice, but what she said was, “Well that sucks! Let me give you a hug!”

And she was right.

She was on his side.

So here is what I am trying to say:

The next time someone you love or just someone you know is bitching about something that is not an affront to humankind, instead of saying “Consider the other guy’s point of view” – or – “Oh, that’s not so bad” – both of which are the equivalent of saying “Calm down!” (and we know how well THAT works) – try saying this instead:


Give the benefit of the doubt to the person in front of you.

Choose a side.

Their side.





  1. divaforaday

    Some times Nancy, like today, I think your posts make me a better person (although I need topping up frequently, it wears off quickly), and for that I thank you and appreciate you. You make me see the world a little differently, what a treat that is. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Diva! Sometimes I think I write these little essays in order to help ME be a better person. I try – but I have a long way to go.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This post made me laugh for many reasons mostly because I could see my husband in this post


    • Oh Yeah! Mine too!


  3. mychaoticbrain

    Great perspective! I do agree it’s for the right people. Sometimes the best way to say I love you is by saying I’ve got your back!


    • Loyalty is such a small thing, and yet I forget it all the time. But I’m trying.


  4. This is great advice — especially on Valentine’s Day when there is a focus on those we love. I’ve often been guilty of supporting a stranger’s position instead of supporting my husband. Your post is rich in thinking material.


    • I do the same thing. I scold my husband for not being understanding much more than I should. I need to be on his side so much more.


  5. Reblogged this on ugiridharaprasad.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow. This post really rang my bell. Here’s what I wrote when I posted this on Facebook: Ohboy. Here’s a lesson that I need to practice a lot. When I was growing up it was very rare to feel that my family was on my side, and it’s often hard for me to say the best thing to my husband and kids. I do exactly what the author speaks of, and take the point of view of “reason” instead of sympathy. It makes me sad now to realize the origin of that behavior–how frequently my feelings were responded to with justification instead of compassion. It seemed that I deserved every bad feeling I ever had.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is really sad to read – but I feel like your ability to recognize it now will make your future easier – and that may be a very good thing.


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  8. I agree with all of the above. You hit the nail on the head — it’s something we all need to practice.


    • I especially need to practice it more with my own husband – I see that I need to be on his side much more than I am.


  9. That’s a good point. I used to try to help my kids always “see the other side” and now I regret that. Although I think it is good for us to understand that often, we people do something we see as hurtful, they aren’t always doing it on purpose or in order to hurt us, sometimes that point of view can be taken too far. Sometimes I think we need to just acknowledge their hurt and their anger if we don’t feel comfortable taking a side. Maybe just say, “Yes, that is very annoying,” or, “That would hurt my feelings, too.” Other times, I think your suggestion is the best way: just take their side!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! When I saw the quote above that I added to the photo, it really resonated with me.Being heard is so near and so important to being loved.


  10. I do the same thing giving others the benefit of the doubt. What I have learned, though, is to keep it to myself and just give out an affirmative grunt to whoever is miffed.


    • Ray G

      That can be a very wise thing to do. Most of the time.


    • Just the acknowledgement that the “miffed” person was heard can be enough sometimes.


  11. This is easier said than done. I’ve had a flood of things come back at me after reading this and it seems I’m always backing the stranger. How odd. Why would we do that? Is it a learned behaviour or something ingrained in our makeup? You certainly have me thinking.


    • I ask myself the same question – why do I do that? I don’t have an answer, but I think it may stem from my family’s emphasis on “keeping the peace” when I was growing up. That I always want to make conflict and anger just go away.


  12. Oh, geeze, this is my knee-jerk reaction every time. My husband sometimes has expressed anger over it and I never could understand what was wrong with trying to be understanding to the other guy. This is a good lesson for me.


    • It is an issue with me too…that’s why I am writing about it. There is nothing wrong with trying to understand the other side, but sometimes I need to just be on the side of the one I love.


  13. Hi a good ways


  14. You’re right. I inadvertently did exactly the wrong thing last Sunday when my husband, visibly upset, told me that Aunt Vi’s obit didn’t include us, even though we have been doing so much for her in lieu of other family not stepping up, for years. I responded that I supposed they hadn’t included any of the nieces and nephews because there were so many. And he blew up at me. At the time I had no idea why, but now I see.

    Liked by 1 person

    • YES! That is a great example of what I am talking about. I do it all the time! My poor husband has actually told me that he feels like I am always on everyone’s side but his, even though my intention was to just smooth things over.

      Liked by 2 people

  15. Loved reading this ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Loved it. Needed to read this. Need to practice this.


  17. My husband and son tell me that I take the other person’s side all the time. They’re right. I feel compelled to find a reason for other people’s bad behavior, but that doesn’t make my family members feel better.


    • Exactly! it’s what I do all the time. I’m trying to stop it….at least a bit.

      Liked by 1 person

  18. That’s great advice, and I’ve never thought of it before!


  19. Patricia Mitchell Lapidus

    Seems like a lesson I have learned in the past year at the age of 76. I have a friend who gets upset at her neighbor for such things as a noisy wind chime and feeding squirrels, which attracts them to my friend’s porch as well. I used to try to get her to relax and let these annoyances drift past. Now I say, “You have a right to your outrage.” Shes like that much better.


  20. Patricia Mitchell Lapidus

    And isn’t this somewhat similar to what my husband used to do when, for instance, he gave away one of our blankets to a person in need without asking me? Sure it was generous of him, but it made me a non-person, someone subsumed into his own person that did not need consideration.


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