As I mentioned in my last post Chad and I are currently leading a group of up and coming leaders in Second Mile. Challenging a group to think deeply about different aspects of leadership always challenges me to rethink and relearn, as well as enjoy new ah-ha moments of leading others. One of the exercises we work through in the class is coming up with a list of our own personal core values. Friends, this is not an easy process. I've been working on my list for a couple of years now and it is finally coming together in a more satisfactory way. In fact, I'm ready to share my list with you. Just kidding. I'm definitely not at that point. But I will share one.
I so value understanding. The funny thing is I shared with the group last week that "self-awareness" was one of my values, but in just six short days it morphed into the more descriptive value of my life as "understanding."
Through the lens of truly understanding, I highly value
- knowing who I am, how I'm wired, how I process the world.
- when others truly know themselves and seek to be better.
- the background of those who are telling me stories.
- the history and context of someone who is hearing my story so that I can fit my words into their framework.
- the opinions of others. (This is a developing skill. Note I said understanding opinions, not agreeing with opinions.)
A couple of passages in the Bible have been key in my heart and I didn't realize the connection until Sunday night.
Teach me, O Lord, to follow your decrees that I may keep them to the end. Give me understanding, so I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart.
A fool finds no pleasure in understanding, but delights in airing her own opinion.
I've always been a person who wanted to know why. "Because I said so" continues to mean pretty much nothing to me, not because I'm rebellious, but because I value understanding. I want to understand and help my kids understand. I want others to understand. I want to understand the Bible so I can obey it with all my heart. Understanding bolsters my relationship with Jesus and my relationships with others.
Before I get back to the pet peeve I mentioned earlier, I want to make a clarification so you can understand I don't mind if you've done this. There is no judgement from me to you. I only cringe when I see the posts because my heart to is see the whole picture, a response, an ability to understand. You've seen the posts. You've been stirred by them. You've even sided with some of them.
An Open Letter To ________________.
Dear moms of younger children,
Dear moms of older children,
Dear person I've never met and will probably never meet,
Dear person I don't know how your day is going and you were really rude to me so I'm going to respond to you,
Did you see me just get up on my little soap box just now?
Dear lady on her soap box who should step on down from there,
Please know I get the point of these letters. From my understanding (heehee) they are to make a directed point in an area of disagreement with something or someone we've encountered in our life. And let me just say even those of us who haven't actually written one out have possibly written them in our heads in one form or another.
The problem to me is a lack of understanding, a lack of dialogue, a lack of response. The verse I mentioned above says that a fool doesn't try to understand, but only airs their opinion. I do not want to be a fool.
Actually, I want to respond to others with understanding which is perceiving and comprehending. Understanding does not mean I have to agree with everything. But for me to be able to engage with love towards those around me, I want to understand. When I don't understand I find myself responding with fear or hate or apathy or annoyance or extremes.
But even if I don't agree with a personal political preference, but work to understand someone's point of view, I can respond with dignity, directness, and diplomacy.
Even if I don't agree with how someone can be so hateful on the road to another driver, I can seek to understand that maybe they are having a bad day or were raised with different manners than I was, and I can respond with dignity, compassion, and directness.
Even if I don't agree with how someone in my community is dealing with a life situation, I can seek to understand their perspective and lovingly come along side to help, carry the load, bestow dignity.
When we don't respond to the world with understanding, we set ourselves above others, we steal dignity which is part of being an image bearer of God, we lose our voice to the world around us, we look closed off and closed-minded.
If you know me you know I have strong opinions. Understanding does not mean you forfeit the right to think and formulate opinions. On the contrary, understanding deepens your personal insight into the world around you as you lean heavily on God's word. Twenty years ago I naively began to ask God to give me understanding into His word and how it applies to the world. His faithfulness to sand paper away the edges of dogmatic opinion has led me to love Him more deeply which has led me to love others more deeply with a desire to understand.
The great thing about a blog post like this is it only creates more questions for me. How does understanding differ from agreement? How can you seek to understand in split second scenarios without passing judgement? At what point does seeking to understand become a hinderance to action?
What about you? Have you thought about understanding the world around you on a micro and macro scale? To you, what is the link between understanding and dignity?
Share you thoughts with us. Send me an email if you want more discussion on this topic. I will work to seek understanding in your thoughts and questions.