The Secret of Understanding // Positively Speaking // Mark Wilson

Seek wisdom. Seek understanding.

They are like rare diamonds-when you discover them, you’ve found a great treasure.

So much of life is smirched with misunderstanding. In fact, there seems to be more “misunderstanding” in this world than understanding.

Here’s an experiment for you to try: buy a U.S.A. Today newspaper and look for evidences of misunderstanding in our nation and world. Take a yellow highlighter and mark every article that addresses issues of misunderstanding of one kind or another. I’ll guarantee, you will end up with a fairly yellow newspaper.

Most of our conflicts are due to misunderstandings. We fight when we don’t understand.

The word “understand” literally means to ‘stand under”. It’s like when you’re climbing a ladder, and I’m standing under, holding it steady so you won’t wobble and fall. That’s literal “under-standing.”

“Mis-under-standing”, then, is when you’re up one ladder, and I’m hanging on to another one — it doesn’t do either one of us a bit of good!

So often, our relationships are garbled because we’re not dealing with the same ladder.

How do we find the path to better understanding?

1. Seek to understand before you seek to be understood. Steven Covey calls this one of the seven habits of highly effective people. If I’m more concerned with learning where the other person is coming from rather than pushing my own agenda, it helps me see things in a better light.

2. Avoid motive judgments. Don’t assume you know the reason why a person acts a certain way. Presumption is usually at least 50% wrong. If you’re going to judge someone else’s motive-make it positive. In other words, assume the best of other peoples’ intentions-even if you’re wrong, it’s a better way to think.

3. Communicate clearly. I’ve discovered that about 95% of personal conflicts can be resolved by a clear communication of the facts. A basic trait of human nature is this: people are down on what they’re not up on. When there’s opposition to your ideas, perhaps you have not communicated well enough. People don’t like half-cooked ideas any more than they like half baked chicken. Even if you’re ideas are well cooked, your friends and associates will think they’re half-baked unless you communicate, communicate, communicate.

4. Think in terms of principles rather than pragmatics. In other words, life should be filtered through what is true, excellent and praiseworthy. Our words and actions ought to be weighed in the scale of righteousness. We understand life better when we are anchored to a solid rock rather than shifting sands. Without a bedrock core of truth, our decisions are based on mere whim and personal fancy, which naturally leads to confusion. A great way to gain a deeper understanding in life is to use John Wesley’s quadrilateral as you approach life’s uncertainties: 1) Scripture: what does the Bible say about this? 2) Tradition: what have wise people down through the ages said about this? 3) Reason: what does common sense say about this?
4) Experience: what do my personal experiences say about this?

5. Think again. God gave you a brain for a purpose-so you can use it! To gain understanding of an issue, you should put your mind to the task. To gain the maximum insight, think to it, through it, above it, below it, ahead of it, behind it and on every side of it. It’s amazing what you will discover when you look at the issue upside down and inside out.

6. Pray. The Bible says if you lack wisdom, pray for it, and God will give it to you generously without finding fault. (James 1:5) When you are short of wisdom and understanding, ask God. He has an unlimited supply!

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