The story of Ziba and Mephibosheth
King David was once on the run because of his son Absalom's rebellion. When David and his men were running for their lives, a man approached them. His name was Ziba, the servant of Mephibosheth. Ziba brought donkeys, bread, fruit and wine to sweeten them up. Then Ziba told David that Mephibosheth stayed behind Jerusalem to reclaim his grandfather Saul's kingdom.
At this remark, David decided to give Ziba all of Mephibosheth's possessions. Ziba accepted it with flattering words. David believed Ziba's charge against Mephibosheth without checking into it. He heard only one side of the story, assumed it to be true, and made an impulse decision (2 Samuel 16 verses 1-4).
How would you handle a large amount of material gifts followed by an accusation of anther person, especially if you are in a position of power? Would you be suspicious of Ziba's ulterior motives?
When David and his men finally returned to Jerusalem, Mephibosheth came to meet the king. He hadn't taken care of his feet, trimmed his beard or washed his clothes since the day David left Jerusalem. Mephibosheth, who was a cripple, then told David that his servant Ziba refused to saddle his donkey which prevented him from going with the king. He added that Ziba had deceived him and slandered him to David.
At this point, David discovered the other side of the story. In response, he made another questionable decision and ordered Mephibosheth to divide his land with Ziba, rather than returning his original estate. Perhaps David wasn't sure whom to believe. Remarkably, Mephibosheth replied: "Let Ziba take everything, now that my lord the king has returned home safely." He was just happy to see his king again, and that was enough for him (2 Samuel 19 verses 24 -30).
In hindsight, listening to both sides of a story will convince you that there is more to a story than both sides!
Recently, I attended a course titled "Becoming a Trusted Advisor: Professional Consulting Skills" at Equinox IT, a Wellington-based consultancy firm. During the training, this particular passage in the workbook jumped out at me:
"Always endeavour to understand both sides. Stick to the facts. Even though there may be two sides to the story, it does not mean that both sides are equally true and valid, particularly if one party has a vested interest in portraying something in a particular way. Don't jump to conclusions or act prematurely on the basis of hearing one side only."
In most instances we need to verify the facts so traceability becomes important. In the consulting world, if something is not in writing, it doesn't exist. I found this practice to be quite applicable in most areas of our lives. Lack of transparency is usually an early warning sign that something is out of control.
On the other hand, we shouldn't become too rigid in our thinking process. Rules, policies and documents are helpful. They set guidelines and boundaries so things can get done in an orderly fashion. However, our credibility suffers when we rely only on rules and policies instead of being flexible and doing what is right.
People trust problem solvers, not rule enforcers. Those who are hung up on following procedures at the expense of common sense are unlikely to solve problems.
Trust is the foundation of all human relationships. It takes years to build trust, seconds to break, and forever to repair.
Willingness to listen to both sides does not mean compromise. But sometimes it may be wise to back down and be silent for a while.
It takes courage to stand up, but it also takes courage to back down when we must for the sake of others. Martin Luther was right when he said: "Peace if possible, truth at all cost."
Daniel Jang is a Graduate Diploma in Theology (GradDipTh) student at Laidlaw Bible College in New Zealand.
Daniel Jang's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/daniel-jang.html