“Sometimes it’s not enough to know what things mean, sometimes you have to know what things don’t mean.”
We can wait our lifetimes to understand certain things and still never get there. We know this very well on the receiving end—when people don’t understand us, our methods, our peculiarities, our preferences, or our ways of relating in life. Waiting patiently to be understood by the right people can be frustrating and excruciating. But then again, there may be people we are holding out on; people who we don’t understand.
In a relational world understanding appears to be everything, and where there are barriers to understanding, communication, to the ends of trust and intimacy, is hindered.
Relationships and the Opportunities for Grace
God’s grace, resident in salvation through Jesus Christ, is a relational model. It features an unfathomable tolerance for the sin of humankind, through the acceptance of salvation. It goes forward of understanding. It puts in place an arrangement to cater for understanding, even when understanding would otherwise be impossible. The Father understands us as saved sinners due only by what the Son achieved on the cross.
Grace, for us, is the key in our relationships—to forgive those who don’t understand and to be prepared to understand those we don’t understand through our benefit of the doubt.
If someone experiences something, and they fully believe it, we take them at their word. We give them their integrity. We have no skerrick of judgment because we don’t understand—we don’t always need to understand.
When we are on the receiving end, perhaps because we are in a minority group, our opportunity is to understand the bigot or those ignorant of empathy for our position. For some reason they don’t, or won’t, understand. Their rationale appears reasonable to them.
If we wish to be taken at face value, we need to be prepared to take these at face value as well.
Grace Reverses the Trend
Seeking first to understand rather than being understood is a great blessing. It works in reverse of our human logic, but it works in alignment with God’s.
The extension of grace is an act of faith; perhaps the greatest kind of faith.
When we go ahead of people’s failure to understand us by making the effort to understand them, sometimes our understanding begets their understanding. Not that our extension of grace to them is conditional on that at all. It wouldn’t be grace if there were strings attached.
Grace like this is the perfection of love. It requires nothing of the other person and it willingly gives—in this case, understanding. God makes it work out, however, that when we advance our understanding in grace people begin to extend their grace to us through their understanding or attempt at understanding.
It is better to seek to understand than to seek to be understood. We can control what we understand. We cannot control who understands us or how well we are understood. The more we try to understand, the more we will be understood.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.