A quote attributed to Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, sums up our challenges with missing the point: “I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”
The truth is, with all the ways we can misunderstand, miss the point, and just not get what others are trying to say, is so common, it’s a wonder we communicate at all! The ability to actually understand is affected by so many factors, usually unconscious, that we often miss the point of what others are trying to say. And when we miss the point, we always run the risk of damaging relationships, going down the wrong path, or even thinking the exact opposite of what we were told! It is no wonder that it takes a relationship that is well-balanced and humble to really get what someone else is trying to say! It takes a willingness to hear and that takes a sincere valuing of the person you are hearing! And that’s hard work.
Of course, you already see the problem, don’t you? Hard work is something we all too often try to avoid!
Look at our Gospel Lesson today in Luke 9:44-50:
The Lord said to his disciples, “Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of man is to be delivered into the hands of men.” But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, that they should not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask him about this saying. And an argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest. But when Jesus perceived the thought of their hearts, he took a child and put him by his side, and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me; for he who is least among you all is the one who is great.” John answered, “Master, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not forbid him; for he that is not against you is for you.”
Notice what uncovered the shallowness of the Lord’s disciples. Jesus is telling them plainly that He is going to be crucified. He is going to be betrayed. He is going to be killed. And they missed this point entirely. But why they missed the point is the key. Look at what they begin to argue about as the Lord is telling them and attempting to prepare them for the most tragic event of their lives. They are arguing about who’s the “greatest!” Their pride and ego make them deaf to reality!
The truth is pride and ego are behind most of my own misunderstandings. I don’t listen to another to actually hear them, but usually, I am listening so that I can respond with my own thoughts or words. And this selfish hearing is at the heart of my missing the point. So, how do we escape missing the point and actually embrace the ability to hear? The path is given to us by our Lord Jesus.
First, child-like humility is necessary. This humility isn’t so much learned as remembered and embraced. You use to be this humble when you were a child. So, return to this humility in assuming the best in others. Assuming the simplicity of acceptance. Assume the truth and be shocked at the lie! Let child-like humility overcome the easy cynicism of our day!
Next, rejoice when others do well. The ability to rejoice when others do well reveals a heart still tender and simple. It is only when our hearts become hard and suspicious that they lose the ability and joy of celebrating others instead of immediately pointing out where they are deficient.
Today, do you find yourself missing the point on a regular basis? Are you not hearing the wisdom of the Faith because you are too busy promoting your own agenda? The real and eternal consequences of this deafness to wisdom are unnecessary. You can start getting to the point, but only through the path of humble obedience and a joyous heart. Then, you will be Orthodox on purpose!
P.S. O Lord of mercy, You truly hear me because You truly love me. You know me better than I know myself because there is no falsehood in You and You are humble. You call me to live and love as You live and love, and I confess I have a long way to go! Please help me today to actually hear the people that speak to me and give me the humility to assume what they say can help me become more like You. Amen.