Many of us are very familiar with the Prayer of St. Francis, a prayer that reminds us to focus not only on ourselves but to seek to serve and love others. One of the lines in the prayer says, “…not so much to be understood, as to understand.” A beautiful thought, which for many of us, takes hard work to make it happen.
To seek to understand, before explaining our thoughts, is the way of one who serves Christ. To not be open to listening to the stories, the happenings, the concerns of others, makes us ignorant of what others are going through.
A huge problem in our country right now is the unwillingness of many, not to first seek to understand what others are suffering or struggling with. Many times we see life only through our own personal experiences and thoughts. There are many examples.
In Florida there was another recent school shooting, and there seems to be little leadership shown by people to be willing to sit at a table for an open discussion about this very emotional situation. Shouting, fear of not being in control of our safety, people feeling vulnerable, already deciding what is non-negotiable or being unwilling to listen and problem solve are some examples.
When people have real stories of struggle because of skin color, there can be missed opportunities to understand the challenges of skin color that one faces on a constant basis. When a deaf ear is turned to migrants and refugees that have horrible stories of escaping situations that we would never want to find ourselves in…when an elderly person feels unwanted or not valued…when a teenager feels that adults do not take time to listen…these are many other examples where if one put into practice the prayer to seek to understand rather than just be understood what a difference we could make.
Seeking to understand does not necessarily mean agreement or acceptance, but it might mean an openness to be sensitive or more aware of those who may see things differently. Our positions and opinions might be shaped so that we could offer real possible solutions to difficult situations.
We see so much modeling of shouting, not respecting others dignity and self-seeking ways. As Christians we could model something that the world really needs. We can look to good old St. Francis, with his powerful prayer, to first seek to understand others before seeking to be understood by others.
Peace in Christ,