Thursday, November 07, 2013

Understanding Comes First (Love Is Greater than Judgment)

The Hotel Gallery, Tipp City, Ohio
I recently wrote a letter to a young person whose marriage was struggling. There's a lot of fighting and yelling in this marriage. One of them keeps repeating past failures to the other, and the other called me and asked "Why do they have to keep reminding me of mistakes I've made in the past!"

Here's the note I sent to them. You can fill in the blanks, since I've written this kind of note to many people over the years.

Dear _________:

Understand ______. 
Understanding always comes before evaluation. 
Linda and I spend little time evaluating each other and tons of time understanding one another. To understand is to love; to be understood is to be loved and to feel loved. So understand why ______ feels a need to repeat things to you. It's probably because they feel you are not really listening, or because they cannot trust you. 
You do not need to defend yourself about such things. Work to understand why they feel the need to repeat things to you, 
and they will begin to feel understood, 
which is to feel loved.

Communicate with me as needed, and we'll talk on the phone again.



After sending that note I went looking for a book in my library - To Understand Each Other, by Paul Tournier. This is one of the books that shaped Linda and I in how we approach relationships and marriage. We used to give newly married couples a copy of it. For those who value depth and wisdom, Tournier's works are must reading.

In my philosophy classes students are evaluated on understanding the material, and not on whether they agree or disagree with it. To evaluate (make a judgment) an argument without first understanding the argument is foolish.

Making judgments without understanding is commonplace, and the cause of many relationship breakdowns. Here's the order of relational priority:

1. Understand.
2. Evaluate.

In knowledge and relationships understanding comes first. Which is a way of saying that love is greater than judgment.