alphabet of thanks, “U”

I’m thankful today for UNDERSTANDING.

Giving it and receiving it.

I think understanding is a lost art.

Let’s face it. When we give understanding, we can’t at the same time be intolerant or hateful. I think sometimes we think that if we offer understanding, we are watering down our beliefs. And I also think that we look at understanding as “acceptance”.

I don’t think it has to be that way.

The definition for understanding is:

  •  as a noun:  the ability to understand something; comprehension.
  •  as an adjective:  sympathetically aware of other people’s feelings; tolerant and forgiving.

You notice there is nothing about agreeing with, overlooking anything, denying the truth, turning a blind eye, etc.

I can tell you that offering understanding to someone while at the same time not excusing their behavior or offering advice that is watered-down is very hard to do. How do you emphasize with someone’s feelings while accurately appraising their situation so you can help?

A good example is the story of the women caught in adultery. You know the one. If you don’t, here it is.

John 8:1-11New Living Translation  

A Woman Caught in Adultery

Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

11 “No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

Jesus understood how she felt but he didn’t offer any platitudes or easy-on-the-ears advice. He understood that while she was perhaps a victim of the men who used her services, there was still some culpability on her part. She needed to change her behavior. “Go and sin no more”.

And understanding probably has stages.

For example, Jesus might well have treated this woman differently the second or third time she was accused. He would have forgiven her, of course, but he would have also told her to change her behavior in more certain terms.

How do I know that?

Because Jesus was amazingly consistent. He forgave, yes, but he also preached regeneration, meaning change. He never cajoled or coaxed anyone into obedience. He still doesn’t.

At times, I wished He did.

It feels good to have someone try and understand us, doesn’t it?  And aren’t we more receptive to hearing some tough words when we feel we have been understood? No one ever gets our attention if we sense they are judging us.

We should always try to understand first. And if the situation continues and our understanding is no longer the proper response, then perhaps the words, “Go and sin no more”, will be received.

For example, let’s say I overeat and have a stomach ache. I mention it to someone and they remind me it’s pretty much all my fault and walk away.

But what if someone else says, “I am really sorry you are sick.”

What happens though if I continue to get sick because of my overeating and I continue to want “understanding”. Does that do me any good? Does that help me change my behavior?

Probably not.

There comes a point when understanding needs to give way to honesty. But let’s always start with understanding. I just read this in Oswald Chamber’s, My Utmost For His Highest: (this is my summary)

“Don’t get in God’s way when He’s dealing with someone. You may be doing them more harm than good. Don’t rescue.”

It’s one of my favorites because it speaks to one of my faults, the need to rescue. Sometimes the best thing we do for someone is to step aside and let them learn.

God bless and have a good day.