“I know what you mean”

  • Sumo

Unlikely. In my opinion.

Yes, I am a suspicious guy, but if I hear, ‘I know what you mean’, then I guess that it’s probably not true. I reckon we  all overreach ourselves in claimed understanding.

I come to this thought after some (well-meaning) comments about me. Firstly, someone said to me, ‘I understand what you say.’ And I thought: the two of us have never once spoken about that issue.

Secondly, another friend spoke to a third party, ‘Chris and I have had a number of good conversations about this.’ When I heard, I thought, ‘We have?’ I recall a couple of brief chats while getting a biscuit at morning tea. They were fine conversational snippets, but not especially deep or probing.

Let me flip the coin over. For both of these friends I have no certainty that I could clearly explain their beliefs on these specific topics.

Then I read this piece by Miachael Duffy. In it he argues that we tend towards explanations too quickly or too easily. That we long for the ‘why?’, without sufficient justification. A sample of this piece:

we often assume we know enough to make a decision or form an opinion when we don’t; we often use dubious rules of thumb as short-cuts; and we often replace a hard question with a simpler one without realising it.

Duffy applies this to politics, but I’m sure it’s also true of everyday relationships. How wise are the many biblical encouragements to listen!

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
but a wise man listens to advice.
Proverbs 12:15

When I looked at some of the Bible on listening, a further link was clear. Listening is a hinge in the doorway of anger and punishment. For example, wisdom listens to rebuke (Proverbs 25:12). Or again, not speaking but hearing  avoids unproductive human anger (James 1:19-20).

Listening is not simply a matter of communication. It’s a matter of justice.

When I thought of this as a blog topic, I know what I wanted to say: why don’t people listen to me? Now, however, I can see that God wants something altogether more significant: my continued, firm commitment to listen to what people are saying; to understand what can be said, as well as the limits of what remains unsaid.