Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
I wonder if you’ve ever heard the name Clyde Narramore. Dr Narramore, who died in 2015, was a Christian author and psychologist who made a big impact with his teaching and counseling skills.
He was a pioneer in Christian psychology. One of his successful books was one called Every Person is Worth Understanding.
Everyone, no matter what their cultural background, has different opinions, habits and ways of life. We are each different—and that’s what makes life so exciting and enriching. No two people in the world are the same—and so it’s true that every person you meet is worth understanding.
It was Harper Lee who famously said: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb inside his skin and walk around in it”. Wouldn’t it make such a big difference if we thought about that more often? If we took that statement seriously, there would be no more hatred. For it’s like what Tennessee Williams said: “Hate is a feeling that can only exist where there is no understanding”. And that is also a true statement. If you truly understand someone, you will not be able to hate him/her. It was like Abraham Lincoln who said one day: “I don’t like that man—I must get to know him better”.
God commands us to love others
But from a Christian perspective, there is a more powerful reason to think about others. It’s what God wants us to do. The Bible clearly says we are to love others as much as we love ourselves. Matthew 7:12 says, “whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them”.
- Don’t you want others to take time to hear you out?
- Don’t you want others to try to understand where you’re coming from?
- Do you appreciate when people write you off before they understand what you’re saying? And that can be particularly upsetting and annoying. I’ve had that happen to me.
Let’s treat our neighbour the way we want to be treated. Let’s try to understand where they are coming from; if for no other reason than that’s what we wish others would do for us.
This doesn’t mean you have to accept their position as being correct. It doesn’t even mean you can’t try to change their mind. But it does mean you recognise it is not loving to try to persuade someone before you even understand them. Strive to understand before you strive to be understood.
Try to understand before making a judgement
How often have you argued with another person because you haven’t taken the time to understand them? Clyde Narramore knew what he was talking about. Every person is worth understanding. Take the time and trouble to get to know others before you make a judgement about them. It could be a wrong judgement. Do you really understand the joys and sorrows that people go through? Sometimes we call it walking a mile in another man’s shoes. God has made us unique with our own personality. Some of us need a little more empathy. That is reaching out to another person with true feeling, not sympathy.
George Orwell is an inspiring model. After several years as a colonial police officer in British Burma in the 1920s, Orwell returned to Britain determined to discover what life was like for those living on the social margins. “I wanted to submerge myself, to get right down among the oppressed,” he wrote. So he dressed up as a tramp with shabby shoes and coat, and lived on the streets of East London with beggars and vagabonds.
The result, recorded in his book Down and Out in Paris and London, was a radical change in his beliefs, priorities, and relationships. He not only realised that homeless people are not ‘drunken scoundrels’. Orwell developed new friendships, shifted his views on inequality, and gathered some superb literary material. It was the greatest travel experience of his life.
He realised that empathy doesn’t just make you good—it’s good for you, too.
(To be continued in Every Person Is Worth Understanding – Part 2)