Take time to better understand each other

Published 6:07 pm Friday, January 23, 2015

I received a call the other night from a little girl who had the sound of urgency in her voice, but I could not decipher her words.  While I knew it was not an emergency, I could understand enough of what she was trying to say to tell that there was something that she needed Papa’s help with.  After having her repeat what she was attempting to convey, I finally caught on to the word “wabbit” and shortly everything came together:  Madeline needed some pictures of rabbits for her school project!  It only took a little patience, effort, and overhearing her mother in the background to get all the misunderstanding cleared up.  I must say that of the many things all my little girls have requested help with, this was the first time it involved pictures of an arctic hare; in fact, I didn’t even know there was such an animal up to this point.

Throughout life, if we would all make the effort to understand one another and overcome misunderstandings it would surely put more smiles on our faces and produce greater levels of joy.  It is unfortunate, however, that so many relationships are trashed and so many churches suffer simply because of what often started as a misunderstanding.  Little misunderstandings, when fed on a potent diet of exaggeration and alteration, soon emerge as an insurmountable beast with the ability and willingness to wraeck havoc in the lives of all those who cross its path.  Thankfully there are some simple measures we can take to help starve the devastation produced by misunderstandings.

One measure that we can take is nurturing a desire to understand others.  Even though I had no idea at first what Madeline was trying to say to me when she called, I wanted to know because I was interested in what she needed and how I might be able to help her.  It is understood that other encounters with people are usually much more complex than a simple request from a six year old, but the need to understand remains.  Taking time to really understand what a person means can prevent a lot of heartache and loss.  Proverbs 16:22 says that “Understanding is a fountain of life to those who have it, but folly brings punishment to fools” (New International Version).

Email newsletter signup

To that we can add the willingness to lay aside self comfort for the good of another.  Philippians 2:4 gives this instruction:  “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  When Madeline called I had just finished up a long day and was beginning my Sunday night ritual:  relaxing.  After coming to understand what she wanted, relaxation was postponed for awhile; her needs took priority over my plans.  Clearing up misunderstandings is not always without a cost, but if we are willing to sacrifice a little personal comfort and time that result in the salvaging of a relationship, it has yielded a high return.

It is amazing how “their” school projects become “our” projects so quickly—but that’s alright.  A little extra learning is good for us old folks too.  Now I know that the arctic hare is also known as the polar rabbit and has a lifespan of about five years!  And I am glad I took time to understand what Madeline was trying to say.