by Erin Bird
Two weeks ago, we kicked off blog series on the topic of How to Reconcile Relationships. For these four weeks, we are using the B.L.U.R. acronym from Dr. Emerson Eggerichs to guide us. (If you've missed the previous weeks, you can catch up here on the blog.) This week we come to the U - Understand to be Understood.
Have you ever been to a debate? Whether in the political, judicial, philosophical, or some other realm, a good debater will tell you what their opens will say, and then why their opponent is wrong. In other words, they are communicating to their audience, "I understand what my opponent has to say, but I also understand why they are mistaken..." The audience is much more prone to listen and believe the debater that can state the opponent's position as well as them and then explain their own position.
While I do not want you to see yourself in a debate with the person with whom you need reconciled, I do want to encourage you to take a page out of the proficient debater's book. Seek to understand the other person. Get to know their position. Truly listen to what they are saying and ask questions to understand why they are saying it. When you show the other person you truly understand them, chances are, you'll either change what you believe or be able to more clearly and patiently explain why you disagree. When you truly listen to the other person, they feel heard and understood, making them far more likely to then truly listen to you.
Several times in my career as a pastor, I have counseled someone who is having difficulty in a relationship. Usually it is in a marriage or dating relationship, but I've also counseled people through friendship and parental struggles. Occasionally, I end up talking with one party first. When I was a young pastor, I would end up siding with this first person with whom I talked, ready to help them get the other person (who was clearly wrong) to agree. But when I talked with the second person, a different picture began to emerge. In other words, I began to understand the deeper and broader context of what was happening. This led me to be able to counsel the two individuals far more effectively had I only heard one side.
When you are having a disagreement with someone, you are on one side - yours! That's why "Understand to be Understood" is so powerful, because it is helping you get on their side in a sense. I believe this is why the Apostle Paul told the church in Philippi to "count others as more significant than yourselves." When you truly care about the other person, considering them as more important as you, you WANT to hear their side and truly understand them. And when they know how much you care, they are more likely to listen to what you have to share.
So after Believing in Their Good Will and Lowering Your Heart Rate, seek to Understand to be Understood, and watch your relationship not only be reconciled but go deeper and farther than you ever dreamt.
Thanks for reading, and don't forget - we are at Kohlmann Park this Sunday (July 14) for a baptism celebration followed by a potluck. We'll worship alongside fellow Converge churches Grace Baptist and Denver Baptist, so be sure to bring some lawn chairs and a side dish or dessert to share. See you Sunday!
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