Seek To Understand
By: Tom Norvell

Vol. 15 No. 17 | April 23, 2012

Last week I shared three things that must happen if we are going to love people the way Jesus loved them. (A Norvell Note, Vol. 15 No. 17, April 16, 2012)

First, we must decide that we will love them no matter what.

Second, we much get rid of our own pride.

Third, our expectations of people must change.

As we go a step further in this love process I offer another very important Jesus quality that will help us love like He did.

I must seek to understand rather to be understood.

Keep in mind, when we talk about loving people we are talking about people we want to love. As Jesus taught His disciples in John 13 these were friends who had been together the better part of three years. They had all left jobs, possessions, and perhaps family to follow Jesus. Some of them were literal blood relatives. One of them was a betrayer; yet he was one of them. It is not a difficult thing to imagine how difficult it would be to love those people when things are going well and everyone is on their best behavior, much less when things turned really dark as they were about to do.

After everything came down, it is quite possible that the conversations turned toward things like: "Can you believe Judas killed himself? How selfish can you be?" Or, "Peter, what were you thinking? We were looking to you to show us what to do. You were our leader! We were depending on you!"

It is into that context that Jesus says, "Love one another."

It is not a long stretch, then, to incorporate that instruction into our context. "What do you mean, 'You just donít love me any more?'" Or, "How dare you treat me with such disrespect!" Or, "I donít care what you may think I have done to you, that was all in the past. Youíve got to forgive me!" Or, "If you really loved me you would never talk to me like that."

So how do we do it? How do we love these people in our lives that have hurt us, betrayed us, mistreated and/or abused us? How do we love those people who are just difficult to love? How do we do a better job of loving those people we already love? Jesus never said it would be easy, but if we first seek to understand rather than to be understood, it does make it more bearable.

If you and your children are on opposite sides of an issue, for starters, listen. Just listen. Listen closely. Listen for fears. Listen for clues as to why your child feels so passionately about the issue. Listen for understanding, not for ammunition. Listen without defenses. Just listen to understand your child.

You and your spouse are doing battle against one another. You are convinced you are right; your partner is wrong. There is nothing that can convince you to back down from what you believe to be the only correct course of action. Your spouse feels the same way. You are deadlocked. Communication comes to a standstill. Until you decide to ask one important question, "Why do you feel so strongly about this? I really do want to understand."

For months you and a long-time friend have not spoken. You see her when you drop the kids off at school. You see her at special events in the neighborhood. But she does not speak. She will not speak. You have tried to reengage her in conversation, but she refuses. At times your sadness turns to disappointment, which turns to resentment, which turns to anger. You tell yourself you do not care. If she does not want a relationship, why should you? But you do. So you persist until she agrees to talk. You begin the conversation with one question: "What happened? Did I do something? Please help me understand." She sits quietly for several minutes. Then, she starts to cry. She explains. As you listen you realize that it was a terrible misunderstanding. It takes time, but the relationship is restored.

Seek to understand rather than to be understood. It will work. Give it a try.


© Copyright 2012 Tom Norvell. All rights reserved.