April 30, 2012

To Be Understood, Not Argued

"A father once told me, 'I can't understand my kid. He just won't listen to me at all.'

'Let me restate what you just said,' I replied. 'You don't understand your son because he won't listen to you?'

'That's right,' he replied.

'Let me try again,' I said. 'You don't understand your son because he won't listen to you?'

'That's what I said,' he impatiently replied.

'I thought that to understand another person, you needed to listen to him,' I suggested.

'Oh!' he said. There was a long pause. 'Oh!' he said again, as the light began to dawn. 'Oh, yeah! But I do understand him. I know what he's going through. I went through the same thing myself. I guess what I don't understand is why he won't listen to me.'

"This man didn't have the vaguest idea of what was really going on inside his boy's head. He looked into his own head and thought he saw the world, including his boy" (1989, pp. 239-240).

This story is found in a book written by Stephen R. Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. It's in the chapter about "Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood".

Do you find it funny? I do!

So often I find myself frustrated at just how stubborn some people actually are. While in fact, my frustration only reflects the fact that I'm just as butt-headed as they are since I keep on pushing my opinions on them. 

Proverbs 26:4-5
Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him.
Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.

The above verse exactly summarises the truth of my stupid arguments. If I think I have few words pf God's wisdom and have to pass it on to them, I think I wouldn't fall into heated disputes. Because holy discontent is different from the pride of claiming my values as the most righteous or best, compared to people's. But I fully realise that most of the time, I argue with people only because of my own minus-level-humility.

Then again, even if I think my advice will be the best for them, I'll still be foolish to… argue. As a believer I should've known best that only God is able to change a person's heart. If they already hardened their hearts, what's the benefit of me keep persuading them to do the other way round? I can't change a person's mind. So I'll be a fool, if I wish people to be who they're not meant to be.

Shame on me.

Well, I know that my reality is only built on my own past experience, which is special and different from any other's. That also means people's experience are also distinctly unparalleled. It's unique, in a way.

Bottom line is, Jesus taught me that if I want people to understand me, I have to make sure I try to understand them first. Listen to their stories and make an attempt to understand their heart. Imagine being them living in their world, with all the great and bad experiences they've had. I'm confident that when I'm able to reach that stage, they will understand me back.

If they don't, well, maybe they just don't yet ;)

Anyway, the above verse is really interesting in a way that the Proverbian told us to reply a fool and also not to reply at the same time. So which one is best? To answer, or not to answer? What I've gathered so far about this contradiction is, when someone only talks for the sake of proving him/herself to be right (or superior) even at the expense of other people, we have to stand up and refute their thinking errors using their own logic. If you think their reasonings are flawed and illogical, then maybe they are.

It's good to help preventing a fool to stay foolish in their own world, but of course we must do it in a peaceful manner. Sincerity is radiant, you can't conceal it nor fake it. If you genuinely have the intention to help them to reach a better understanding, they will sense it. And that can only be evident in your speaking manner.

Philippians 2:3-4
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Proverbs 17:27-28
He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; when he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.

Romans 12:18
If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.

Don't argue, don't put people down, always think people are better than you, and spare your words.
By all means, make peace.

Hello Monday!
God bless


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