Seek First to Understand… then to be Understood – Apr 11

By: Firman Rianto


A father shared the experience of punishing his young son who kept disobeying him by constantly going around the corner. Each time he did so, the father would punish him and told him not to go around the corner again. But the little boy kept doing it. Finally, after one such punishment, this boy looked at his father with tear-filled eyes and said, “What does ‘corner’ mean, Daddy?”


Such stories happens a lot in our day-to-day life, be it professional, casual, or family. Although it is ‘normal’ it can cause a lot of frictions relationally. And at the heart of most of the real pain in families is this: misunderstanding.


To be able to appreciate the high frequency of misun­derstanding occurring in our day to day life, we best dig in to the root cause. I invite you to take a few seconds and just look at the picture on this page.


Do you see an Indian? What does he look like? Which way is he facing?


You would probably say that the Indian has a promi­nent nose and he is looking to the left of the page.


But what if I were to tell you that you’re wrong? What if I said that you were not looking at an In­dian but an Eskimo, he is wearing a coat with a hood that covers his head, and that he is facing away from you and toward the right side of the page? Can you see the Eskimo? It is important that you see him clearly before you continue reading.


Now that we both agree that we both are right, we can continue and realize that the way we see the world is not necessarily the way other people see the world. In fact, people do not see the world as it is; they see it as they are, or as they have been conditioned to be.


One of the main reasons behind communication breakdowns is that the people involved interpret the same event differently. Their different natures and back­ground experiences condition them to do so. If they then interact without taking into account why they see things differently, they begin to judge each other. But love is governed by understanding rather than judgement.


Next time you are in a difficult conversation with some­one, please humble yourself, listen, and understand the perception of the person you are talking with. You might not get your point across but you are serving that person in love.


“Even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by your conduct, when they see your re­spectful and pure conduct.”

(Adaptation of 1 Peter 3:1-2)

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