Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Art Of Understanding

There I was sitting with my legs crossed on the floor with the other students. I was wearing my traditional white "gi." The name given to the martial arts outfit I was wearing. I had just attained my blue belt after completing the first of four phases on becoming a black belt. Every night after entering the "dojo" or the training place, our instructor would have an object lesson for us. So, as we would begin our stretching for the night's grueling action he would teach us. This night he taught us the art of understanding others.

I don't remember verbatim what he said but the idea of it did stick with me. His basic premise is that we too often have our own ideas and thoughts in mind that we don't really stop to listen to what the other person has to say. He said we should be quiet long enough, open our mind to the other person, let them speak and really try to understand where that person is coming from. He likened it to a tug of war. Too many times, we are tugging at a rope trying to get that other person to come over the "line" to our way of thinking. Instead, it's easier to at times, to drop the rope, cross the line to their side, and listen to them! Now, he wasn't saying we would always agree one-hundred percent, but we'd be far better off if we tried that approach.

I'd like to say that I've always followed that premise all the time. Unfortunately, because I'm so very human and flawed, I have failed to do that at times. There have been times in my life when I've accomplished that very well. I always wondered though: Why did it work so well sometimes and not well at other times? I think I know my answer. The times when it worked the best was when I was truly listening to God's voice and walking his way. When I stray from that, then is when I find understanding a bit harder to grasp.

As human beings we all want our way! Really, don't we? It's about us! I have one friend who jokes with me and says, "It's all about me, Randy, it's all about me!" and just laughs. He's toying with me. But, without the Holy Spirit guiding our lives we can become one-sided, tunnel vision sets in and we can't see past the hallway. When the Holy Spirit truly takes control, we can clearly let him lead the way and look out for others in our lives! I'm reminded of a sermon my friend Bob had spoken on many years ago. It came out of my favorite inspirational book of the New Testament, Philippians. (My favorite doctrinal book of the NT is Romans. Yes, they both contain doctrine, but Philippians is my emotional favorite.) The verses were: "Don't just look out after your own things, but look out after the things of others!" (Paraphrase.) Philippians 2:4. Now, that doesn't mean being a busy body, but truly looking out for the interests of others as we look out for ourselves.

Just today I received two emails. One from a friend in Illinois that I care deeply for but I needed to understand him more. The second from a friend here at home where she was asking for understanding of something that is going on in her life. I spoke to my brother about both of these communiques. I mentioned to him that I had drifted to some degree and I needed to really "understand" more than what I had been doing the past week. So, I endeavored today to do just that! Plus, in addition, there are times when I have to ask friends and family to bear with me or to try to "understand" what I'm going through. See, in understanding, we don't always have to know exactly what the person is going through, but we can "seek" to comfort, care and show concern during that process.

It seems I'm on my knees a lot in prayer asking that I understand better the needs of those around me. I also have to get "myself" out of the way at times so I can better hear what God "is" trying to tell me. I have to drop the rope, quit playing "tug-of-war" and step over the line and really listen. That even goes with the Lord himself too! Didn't he say, "Come let us reason together?" He did. I'm loosely using that line for God was talking about man's sin and God's forgiveness. So, if anything today, I'm asking God to help me to understand more. There are times when I don't understand him either. Go figure. But, when my struggle is finally over, I finally come to the Lord's side of thinking and say, "God you know best!" And he does.

So, today, a memory from 1993 of a martial arts instructor came back to me and did me a lot of good. I refer to this novel a lot but it's an oldie but a goodie. Axel Jordache in the novel "Rich Man Poor Man" said, "no one really understands anybody in this world." In essence he's right. But, if we truly make it a cognitive thought and act upon it, we can all do a bit better. Well boys and girls that's it for today. May the love or our Lord be with us all!


  1. Listening is such an art form. Imagine trying to teach it to a 15-year-old who is already convinced that he knows everything there is to know.

    I hope you are doing well, my friend.

  2. Roger,

    I remember being that age and thinking I knew it all. Now, I'm older and have more questions than answers. It's ironic isn't it? Thanks for being a faithful reader Roger!