We Should Attempt to Understand Others


There are often many issues, some serious and others minor, that arise between individuals in various settings such as, parish, workplace, home, etc. By issues I mean: misunderstandings based on what someone said or what someone did. Often misunderstandings come from our misinterpretation; that is, what is said or done is perceived with a different meaning than what is intentioned.

In the Gospel Reading today there is a clear misunderstanding, because of misinterpretation. Jesus said, “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” By “leaven” Jesus meant the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees. The disciples misinterpreted this statement by Jesus; they thought Jesus was talking about bread. The point is the statement that Jesus made was interpreted in two different ways.

In large or small settings, misunderstandings can happen. Often, relationships become strained or are on the verge of becoming broken. There could have been something said at a meeting, or within a social media platform, or it could have been one-on-one. Whatever the case may be, we as Christians should never take what people say or do at face value. It might be that they mean something else, as it was with the case of Christ and his disciples. The point is that we shouldn’t be reactive toward someone’s words or deeds but rather seek for clarification. Here are some examples:

  1. We often talk about the way we feel. It is my observation that most people have an “edge” to what they say because of what they are going through. They might have lost a loved one, or maybe there are going through a traumatic situation in their life. This causes people to be emotionally imbalanced, and so they might make comments that are abrasive or out of the ordinary. In such a case, we should give people “the benefit of the doubt” and try to understand them more.

  2. Certain people have certain reputations, and no matter what they say, they are understood through the lens of their reputation. We need to step back and understand someone from the standpoint of what they are saying rather than trying to understand them through some sort of reputation that society or we have given them.

  3. Our negative interactions with others often shape our perception of that person. Our reaction toward him or her in what they say or do is often misunderstood because we have not forgiven them or moved toward reconciliation. We often think of the hurt and the pain rather than trying to understand what that person is saying.

  4. We might misunderstand someone due to educational or socio-economic level. We sometimes discredit others, which leads to misunderstanding, because we think we know more, or because we don’t think they have the same academic or social caliber as us.