THE SENSE TO LOOK DEEPER
I remember a verse that goes something like this, "Only the person involved can know her own pain; no one else can really share it." That verse and a few recent experiences have inspired me to write about the way we form opinions of others without knowing the full details of their lives. If only we could see the total picture, we might be more compassionate. If we could see the reasons behind the things people do and say, we might be more forgiving.
So much misunderstanding goes on when we communicate. And it's that misunderstanding which causes bad feelings and broken relationships. It amazes me how easily people can misunderstand what I'm trying to say. I was at a party last summer talking to a woman about what I might get into next. We got on the subject of selling and I told her about a woman who tried to recruit me as a salesperson. Within minutes the woman became defensive and told me that she has great respect for that person. "It takes a lot of discipline to do what she does," she said as if I were attacking the woman's character.
She assumed that I was criticizing the gal who tried to recruit me. But what she didn't realize was that I had helped that person get started in her business and we were on friendly terms. The point I was trying to make was that I can't sell to save my life. Looking back, I wish I would have told her how mistaken she was, but I walked away without telling her she misunderstood.
Once I sent a note to my daughter's teacher when she didn't want to take part in a spelling bee. The teacher didn't take it well from what my daughter told me. But what the teacher didn't see was the exhausted mother (me) who wrote the note and the things that led up to it. From what I understood, the spelling bee was mandatory. I wrote the note as a desperate attempt to quiet my daughter's fears, but I don't think it was received as that.
Jumping to conclusions is one way we get ourselves into trouble. Sometimes we hear something totally different than what the person meant. I've learned to give myself a cooling-off period whenever someone says something offensive. Too many times I've made a fool of myself by assuming something that just wasn't so. And then when I got the whole story, I felt like an idiot and had to apologize for my hasty judgment.
Another thing we do is fail to see the baggage that people carry around. Sometimes people do and say things because of past experiences. We don't realize that the reason someone is so sensitive about her weight is because of a fat stage she went through and the teasing she endured because of it. We don't realize that the reason someone seems so controlling and bossy is because she desperately wants children. Her motherly instincts are in overdrive and she has nothing to nurture but other people's lives. So she comes across as bossy and arrogant but she's really hurting inside.
Hurting people hurt people. It's from our own brokenness that we hurt others. And if we could just see beyond the offense and look a little deeper, we might discover that the hurt we're experiencing is actually the fallout from someone else's pain. We really should give people the benefit of the doubt more often. We really should be more forgiving, more understanding, and slower to assume the worst. We can't see the hidden reasons why people do what they do. We don't know what's behind their hurtful words. But we can pray for our eyes to be opened to their pain. If we can understand the reason for their actions, we'll be more likely to extend grace. The world needs more grace.