You Mean What I Understand

Some time ago, I called a close friend just to say hello. My call was not returned, so I called again and left a message. Again, my call was not returned. I then emailed a friendly, “Just checking up on you, buddy”, but got no response. My first reaction was “What did I do wrong? He must be mad at me for something I said or did? Or maybe it’s something I didn’t do”? You know how our minds can keep going on in this vein! One day, I found myself annoyed and was almost ready to pass judgment, “Well I can’t believe this guy! Who does he think he is?”. But I stopped myself (counter intuitively) before the words came out of my mouth refusing to go “there”.

This reminded me of a term used by negotiators called “self-selection”. It’s when the person hearing an idea or proposal walks away from the negotiating table with a preconceived opinion of what was said, not necessarily what was actually said. In other words, that person’s understanding becomes the basis of reality, not what actually happened. This kind of mindset has led to derailed business transactions, divorces, general misunderstandings between people, and wars.

One of the hardest things for us to do is to listen, or (in my case) wait patiently without superimposing our own understanding of what is happening, or what things should be. We all have an idea of how things work, but each person’s concept can be as unique as a snowflake. This is why two people going into a marriage have their own exclusive ideas of how things are done. The danger lies in making our own understanding of “how things are done” the absolute reality.

When this happens, we end up making snap judgments and hasty appraisals, forcing people into our perceived understanding of things.

God’s Word calls this “judging” and says poignantly that the same measuring stick we use on other people will be used on us.

It later turned out that my friend had been going through some trials and was in a season where he needed to focus on getting things back to normal. I am overjoyed beyond words that I resisted making any judgments about my friend. That would have greatly changed the content of today’s blog.