Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

November 28, 2010


Offer your friends the precious gift of understanding


Elton Trueblood once said the best thing one person can do for another is to offer encouragement. Well, understanding is encouragement at its best. And I can testify that over the long haul, nothing can beat the gift of understanding, especially if it comes from your spouse.

Many times, when I was ready to give up on myself, my wife came to my rescue simply by standing by me with an understanding heart. Without her understanding I would have thrown in the towel. 

       Early on I took her help for granted. Then as the years went by I became more and more thankful for her unwavering support. Actually I revel now in the reality that somewhere, along the way, we became inseparable partners in this journey called life. And I realize I could not have made it without her.  I owe her a debt I can never repay.

I am indebted to many dear friends also for their support. Good friends make a powerful difference by offering their understanding, and it works best in hard times.  Recently a good friend’s kind support at a difficult moment touched my heart. I was reminded again how the soul is strengthened when someone says, without criticism or a judgmental spirit, "I understand."

I hate to admit it but I am good at rushing to judgment. I am quite capable of being insensitive. Many 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 is more understanding and less condemnation. And when understanding is flavored with a bit of encouragement, then it is like a medicine that makes us well.

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 have someone advise us to "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 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 that “it is hard for a free fish to understand a hooked fish."

           Recovery and healing take time. None of us can easily recover from harsh experiences that bring us to our knees in defeat or despair. When we are down we can be "cut us to the quick" by those who judge us harshly. We need time, understanding and the gentle caring of others.

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 simply come alongside us and say gently, “I understand.” I remember with joy a time when my wife was struggling with a sense of failure as a mother. Our friend June came to the door and said as I invited her inside, “I have come not to say anything but to sit with Dean.” Her presence, without words, provided the understanding that Dean needed.  
          The wonderful thing is that every person can participate in this kind of healing. We can benefit from the help and understanding of a good friend, and we can 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  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. You would be wise to admit you cannot make it without help. Why? Because, like every other human being, you 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 – encourage some hurting friend with the gift of your 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.  + + +