This is going to be chock full o' glowing generalities. Sorry, no answers, I am not wired that way. But hopefully in fleshing out the questions, we may be able to gain some insight.
One of the things that Martin Luther said in the Small Catechism is "We should fear and love God that we may not deceitfully belie, betray, slander, or defame our neighbor, but defend him, [think and] speak well of him, and put the best construction on everything." (Response to the Eighth Commandment.) I think he had a good point. Why do we seem to assume the worst of people? Why do we spread our negative theories about people?
I think some of it is survival value. Let's face it, it is better to be afraid of a stick than to go up and pet a Rattlesnake. It is safer to have a fear of heights than to fall off a cliff. People who are not cautious tend to not add to the gene pool. So avoiding danger has survival value. Also, letting others know about things that are dangerous helps them to survive.
But this gets bollixed (don't you just love that word!) up when we are dealing with people. People are more than just stimulus/response or danger/no danger. People are a whole mix of things. People can be simultaneously helpful and hurtful. People can do much to help us, but people can supremely hurt us. And those who can help us the most, are also the ones who can hurt us the most. So I guess by presenting people and their actions in a bad light, we are protecting ourselves from getting hurt. Unfortunately, we are also making it difficult to get the help and support we need.
It also becomes a circle. We frame someones actions as hostile and act coolly toward the person; the person feels the coldness and instinctively backs away; we now have "proof" that the person is "hostile" and feel that our thoughts have been justified.
Another thing that factors into all of this is what is known as the Fundamental Attribution Error. The quick definition I give for this is, "I am angry, You are an idiot," or "I am overworked, You are an idiot." We see the things we do as being attributed to situations in our life such as being overworked or being confused. But when it comes to other people, we see the problem as being a character flaw. And it is easier to get angry with and feel superior to a character flaw. However, it does a disservice to the other person.
I really try to not just assume the other person is an idiot. But it does happen. the Fundamental Attribution Error makes it easier to quickly assess a situation, but it doesn't always make it easier to resolve the situation. In fact, it can cause walls to be erected that need never be there.
The problem then becomes: How do we stop assuming the worst of people and how do we help others from assuming the worst of each other? I would hope in a Christian setting that would not be a problem, but it often is worse in our churches.
More questions than answers.
I usually don't beg for comments, but please! If you have a though, leave a comment! Thanks!