Take time to better understand each other
Published 5:28 pm Friday, April 13, 2018
I received a call one 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.
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 selfishness, soon emerge as an insurmountable beast with the ability and willingness to wreak 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 an elementary school girl, 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). Included among the things we seek to understand, we should seek to better understand one another.
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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.
As we mature in our walk with God we can gain greater patience and desire to understand each other. The result is stronger relationships with each other. Since her request for the “wabbit pictures”, Madeline has grown and has become a lot easier to understand. As a result she can now clearly convey her thoughts to me.
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! I am glad I took time to understand what Madeline was trying to say.