Friday, November 16, 2018

Guidelines for Civil Discourse #5 - Understand Before You Evaluate

Detroit Metro Airport

One evening, when we were younger, I came home from work and heard my sons talking with Linda. It sounded like they were arguing with her. I felt anger, strode into the living room, and took charge.

"Stop arguing with your mother!" I said, in a commanding voice.

All three of them stopped, looked at me, and one said, "You don't even know what we are talking about!"

Fools find no pleasure in understanding 
but delight in airing their own opinions.
Proverbs 18:2

I judged, without first understanding. That's foolish. (I evaluate my philosophy students on their understanding, not their agreement or disagreement with the arguments I present. I tell them, you cannot evaluate until you first understand. Otherwise, they are just airing their opinions.)

Proverbs 11:12 counsels:

Whoever derides their neighbor has no sense, but the one who has understanding holds their tongue.

Understanding breeds compassion. Compassionate people "feel with" the other person, and thus weigh their words.

Judging without understanding is divisive. In all things worth knowing, understanding precedes evaluating. This always takes more time. This is where we go slow. Remember that the relationship is more important than the outcome.


The good doctor examines before diagnosing.

The auto mechanic diagnoses before estimating.

The builder surveys before constructing.

The counselor listens before helping.

The smart consumer researches before purchasing.

The lawyer studies before presenting.

The police officer investigates before citing.
Whoever is patient has great understanding,
but one who is quick-tempered displays folly.
Proverbs 14:29

Folly brings joy to one who has no sense,
but whoever has understanding 
keeps a straight course.

Proverbs 15:21


The one who has knowledge 
uses words with restraint,
and whoever has understanding 
is even-tempered.
Proverbs 17:27

By wisdom a house is built,
and through understanding it is established.
Proverbs 24:23

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.
Though it cost all you have, get understanding.