Every claim, every accusation, every critique—listen to the unedited recording, the full interview, read the whole book. Talk to the accused in person. Examine at the facts with your own eyes and hands. Perform an experiment yourself. Never agree with an accusation without seeing the proof yourself.
If you are the one accused, don’t panic, but answer the charge publicly. Tell the truth for all to see without even naming your accusers or even the accusation. Present the proof as openly and availably as possible.
Even if an accusation is true, we must evaluate the evidence to verify that the description of the problem is what it needs to be. Maybe the charge is not severe enough, maybe the defendant will lie—in which case questioning him tells us the most important information! You will never know without examining the evidence for yourself.
Basic Bible study, journalism, evaluation—anything about life—demands that we examine evidence for ourselves. There is nothing more credible about an opinion than having asked to see the original evidence for oneself, without taking any pre-position whatsoever. There is nothing more discrediting than believing a report without first seeing some kind of proof—at least to understand more. This is easy to agree with in theory, but in the heat of life’s battles, it is easier to forget. Not prejudging in those times when we feel it is right is one mark of a worthy leader.
Ronald Reagan referred to this with the words, “Trust, but verify.” My own words are, “Trust, thus verify.” Trustworthy people seek to have themselves verified. Never trust someone who acts offended at the idea of asking for evidence—whether to produce evidence or to review it.
At the very least, we lose our ability to think critically about the matter when we reach our conclusions based on someone else’s word. Don’t depend on others to think for you. That makes you a slave to ignorance. Verifying facts, evaluating them for yourselves, and developing a unique opinion even when you agree with other people’s conclusions is a central part of critical thinking. Verifying claimed facts is part of human dignity as the Image of God.