Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
November 4, 2007
Encourage someone with the heartwarming gift of understanding
Over 55 plus years of marriage my wife Dean has done a million little things for me. In earlier years I took her help for granted. In recent years I have been more conscious of the blessing she has always been to me. Actually I revel in the reality that somewhere, along the journey, we became inseparable partners in life.
Though I am grateful for all the little things Dean does for me, I realize now that the greatest thing she ever does for me is to give me her understanding. Over the long haul, nothing can beat the gift of understanding. In good times and in bad, it is the tonic we all need.
Elton Trueblood once said the best thing one person can do for another is to offer encouragement. Well, understanding is encouragement at its best. More than once, when I have been ready to give up on myself, my wife has rescued me with acceptance and support. Without her I would have thrown in the towel long ago.
Good friends also make a powerful difference with their understanding. Recently a good friend made me aware again how precious is the gift of understanding. His kind support at a difficult moment was heartwarming. It caused me to remember what it does to the soul when someone says, without criticism or a judgmental spirit, "I understand."
We are all alike when it comes to running to judgment. I am not proud of it but I have to admit that I am quite capable of being insensitive. Most of us are. We can hurt the feelings of our loved ones or best friends without meaning to do it. We can quickly condemn others when they have been foolish, careless, or thoughtless.
What we all need at such times is understanding – not condemnation. And when understanding is flavored with a bit of encouragement, then it is like a medicine that helps us recover. Failure, illness, loss of a job, divorce, or the loss of a loved one can trigger despair in the best of us. None of us is immune from the perplexities of life. When despair settles in, the last thing we need is for someone to come along with the stern advice to simply "stop feeling sorry for yourself." Such a comment only deepens the gloom that surrounds us like a fog.
What works wonders is for someone, especially a friend, to forget about their own struggles long enough to really identify with us, and to say genuinely, "I understand what you are going through." People who are not presently caught in the web of heartache are prone to suggest quick cures for others who are in trouble. We all need to remember these words of wisdom: "It is hard for a free fish to understand a hooked fish."
and healing take time. None of us can easily recover from harsh experiences
that "cut us to the quick."
We need time, and understanding, and the gentle caring of the significant
others in our lives. People need people. Drugs are not enough. Even expert
counseling is not enough. A new beginning is seldom possible without the aid of
a few friends who understand.
The wonderful thing is that every person can participate in this kind of healing. We can not only benefit from the help and understanding of a good friend, we can also offer our own kindness and understanding to others around us.
Reading this, you may think you are an exception, that you are tough, self-reliant, and strong. You may be trying to convince yourself and others that you don't need anybody. You can make it on your own. Most likely you are wrong. Chances are you are made like the rest of us. Your best bet probably is to go ahead and admit you cannot make it on your own. Why? Simply because there is nobody walking around on two legs who does not need the gift of understanding.
So how do you find the understanding you need? Look around you. Find someone to whom you can offer your own gracious understanding, and give it. Stop harping about what's wrong and focus on what is right with the people near you. Just do it – give somebody the gift of your own understanding. First thing you know, it will come back to you, and sometimes from unexpected sources. The medicine you give may be exactly the medicine you need. + + +