I don’t know about you, but lately I’ve been noticing a lot of bitterness in interactions from people all over the world. Everyone wants something. Everyone wants to resolve a social issue, gain a social right, or gain a freedom from some affliction.
I see it everywhere, in every culture. People want to be heard and understood — they are demanding it.
Just spend some time on YouTube, Facebook, or Twitter, and you will find people from every continent describing their views, subcultures, and social values. Individuals feel the constant need to describe themselves, their experiences, and the hurt they feel. Many are struggling through oppression and pain, inflicted by others. They all want one thing: to be understood.
The frustration is real. Individuals, groups, and whole cultures are engaged in a rat race to be the loudest voices heard above the outcry. They want everyone to be informed about their issues and social rights. They’re wishing for healing and a reduction of pain caused by misunderstanding. Though these longings to be heard are legitimate, many people find themselves frustrated when people don’t hear them and aren’t lending time and patience to understand what they are trying to say.
People, in general, don’t seem to have patience for one another. Humans don’t seem to understand that learning takes time, especially when learning about a foreign concept.
Think about it: do you remember learning how to read? How about college Algebra? Wasn’t Spanish difficult to pick up?
All of these entities are hard to learn in the beginning. They are confusing and frustrating because they are completely new concepts. The same goes for social issues. Different people and differing cultures do not naturally understand one another. Learning about another person takes time, and understanding other cultures and social values takes even more patience.
It’s completely impractical to scream at an opposing person over differing beliefs or convictions. If someone had put a textbook in front of me in preschool and screamed “Read! Read! Read!” over and over again, I would have never learned how to do so. I would learn the name of what was expected of me (reading) and I might figure out that reading involves letters, I might even learn a few words, but there would be no understanding for me by simply looking at something I couldn’t do and being told I was stupid for not doing it.
In the same way, cultures, people groups, countries, and individuals cannot expect differing entities to understand them by using simple slogans and repeated phrases. We must teach one another, in terms that we can understand, in order to begin to fully understand other views. All of this learning and teaching TAKES TIME, lots of time.
If a person is going to learn about other people or another culture, they have to be able to understand it on their terms.
Everyone has limited time. We all have families and friends, jobs and responsibilities. We have limited time to educate ourselves on realms that don’t affect our immediate selves. The good news is that people are curious, and if you offer the information you’re trying to teach in an easily and comprehensible way, chances are you’ll have the success of gaining your target audience’s understanding.
However, a large portion of frustration comes when another person is completely uninterested in learning about our values. Disinterested individuals are hard to teach. This is where our own learning and understanding comes in.
Are you frustrated at someone for speaking hateful words toward you and people like you? Are you angry at someone who refuses to consider your side of things? Maybe that means that you don’t fully understand them.
I find that when I come across someone who makes generalizations about me, they usually have a reason, because they themselves are an entity to be understood. What is their history? What have they experienced in life? What kind of culture and subcultures where they raised in?
Usually, if I look at an opposing individual from this angel, my frustration and anger diminish as I come to formulate reasons as to why they may not be able to understand my beliefs, values, and background. My knowledge and understanding of their individuality allows me to practice patience.
But there are exceptions . . .
Some people may be incapable of understanding the concept you are trying to present. That’s okay. For example, I suck at math. No matter how many books I read about math, or how much I practice formulas, the subject is incomprehensible to me. Math is a subject I work hard on retaining, and I just can’t. The fact that I am bad with numbers does not make me stupid, it does not make me a lesser person, it just means that I can’t understand mathmatics.
The same goes for social issues. Some people just can’t understand certain groups, cultures, or needs. They may buy all the books about he issue and gain all the knowledge they can, but that doesn’t mean that they understand the topic. Just because they gather information about a certain issue or culture doesn’t mean they can apply it or use it to make a decision one way or another. If they can’t understand something you can understand, it doesn’t make them lesser and you better. It just means that they are different than you, and you need to UNDERSTAND that.
Yet another aspect to consider is that people DISAGREE. People may learn about you and your beliefs, completely understand, and still disagree. That’s okay! Formulating opinions and values is healthy, very healthy, especially when well researched. This means that a person has sifted through all of the information available and has used that knowledge to formulate a conclusion as to what they believe about a certain topic. This is where we get opposing sides such as “Evolution vs. Creation,” “Pro-choice vs. Pro-life,” “Conservative vs. Liberal,” “Cheeseburger vs. Taco,” or even “Broncos vs. Raiders.”
It all boils down to a simple formula:
- Be patient in educating people about yourself or a cause
- Present comprehensible information about yourself and your cause
- Be willing to understand others might not want to understand
- Know that some people aren’t capable of understanding
- Know that some people will understand and disagree
- Enjoy less anger and strife
It all comes down to being educated and having patients with those around you, while being willing to stretch yourself and learn. When people follow this simple formula to better understand one another, there is suddenly no need for name calling or other uncivil behavior.
The key to a happy life is knowledge, understanding, and, above all else, wisdom. It’s one thing to gather all the knowledge in the world, but another thing to understand that knowledge. It’s yet another thing to use knowledge in a applicable and practical way. Wisdom is the ultimate entity to strive toward, and the ultimate key to peace.