Paying Heed to Only One Side of the Story
by Kenny Gardner

Teddy Roosevelt, in this book, Ranch Life and the Hunting-Trail, commented on the tensions and conflicts between white “borderers” and Indians on the frontier. “The relations between the white borderers and their red-skinned foes and neighbors are rarely pleasant,” he wrote (p. 104). “There are incessant quarrels, and each side has to complain of bitter wrongs,” he went on to say. As he discussed these matters, he pointed out that wrongs were committed on both sides.

Many of the frontiersmen are brutal, reckless, and overbearing; most of the Indians are treacherous, revengeful, and fiendishly cruel. Crime and blood shed are the only possible results when such men are brought in contact. Writers usually pay heed only to one side of the story; they recite the crimes committed by one party, whether whites or Indians, and omit all reference to the equally numerous sins of the other. In our dealings with the Indians we have erred quite as often through sentimentality as through willful wrong-doing. Out of my own short experience I could recite a dozen instances of white outrages which, if told alone, would seem to justify all the outcry raised on behalf of the Indian; and I could also tell of as many Indian atrocities which make one almost feel that not a single one of the race should be left alive (p. 105).

Roosevelt went on to write about wrong-doings by both whites and Indians. It is interesting that he did not gloss over crimes committed by either side: “atrocities” by Indians, because they were a minority, or “outrages” by whites, because he was white. He simply fairly presented examples of offenses committed by both sides.

If the Bible teaches anything, it teaches that we must be honest and fair with others and not jump to conclusions. We must accept the facts, even if we don’t like them, and not draw conclusions when the facts are not available to us (even when we would like to draw conclusions). We are to treat others as we would like to be treated, practicing the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12); we certainly wouldn’t want others to accuse us unfairly, would we? The writer of the book of Proverbs had quite a bit to say about prejudging. “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him” (Prov. 18:13 KJV). One paraphrase has, “What a shame…to decide before knowing the facts!” (TLB), and another has, “Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish” (NLT). According to Proverbs 18:17, “Any story sounds true until someone tells the other side and sets the record straight” (TLB). We are not to go “forth hastily to strive” (Prov. 25:8KJV) or be “hot-headed” (TLB). “Don't jump to conclusions—there may be a perfectly good explanation for what you just saw” (Message).

In 1 Corinthians 4:5 the apostle Paul bluntly told his critics not to just him unfairly or “prematurely” (Holman), and not “before the time” (KJV). “[D]o not make any hasty or premature judgments” (Amplified), and do not “jump to conclusions” (TLB).

Jesus said pretty much the same thing in John 7:24 to His critics. Do not judge “according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (KJV). According to other translations and paraphrases, our Lord said:

“Be honest in your judgment and do not decide at a glance (superficially and by appearances); but judge fairly and righteously.” (Amplified)

“Stop judging by the way things look. Be fair and judge by what is really right.” (ERV)

“Do not form superficial judgements, but form the judgements that are just.” (Weymouth)

Jesus also said that if we make premature judgments, then that is what we deserve ourselves: “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matt. 7:1-2 KJV). According to one paraphrase, Jesus said, “God will be as hard on you as you are on others!” (CEV).

Teddy Roosevelt, unlike many writers of his day, had no problem pointing out both “Indian atrocities” and “white outrages.” You and I today can either be like many of Roosevelt’s contemporaries, who “usually paid heed only to one side of the story,” or we can be like Roosevelt, and see the wrongs committed by both sides. More importantly, we can choose to follow the instructions of the Scriptures and the teachings and example of our Lord Himself.

“If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors” (James 2:8-9 ESV).