No matter how hard we try we never do really understand each other. Why, we never really understand ourselves!
If only we could. Then all appointments with counselors and psychiatrists would be one-off. Any counselor would understand their patient fully within moments of meeting them and be able to point the way to the solutions for all their problems.
All relationships would be so much easier if we could only really understand each other. In fact, many relationships would not even start if only we really understood each other and therefore knew what we were getting into.
But since it does not work that way we have to live with the shortcomings of misunderstandings, misinterpretations and missed points.
Mechanisms for coping with this problem include first at least trying to work each other out. This takes patience, time, good listening, asking the right questions, avoiding the wrong questions, watching how people respond and behave, being non-judgmental, not jumping to conclusions, ignoring rumours. After all this, having come to some sort of conclusion, to move on knowing that the conclusion arrived at is quite likely to be wrong.
At all times what is most needed is forgiveness.
Of course, this is a two-way thing. It isn’t just them understanding me that’s the problem; it is me understanding them at the same time.
Understanding each other is a lot easier when we already have a lot in common but there is no guarantee this will help. Hopefully members of a family will find it easier to understand each other but it is easy to find examples where they don’t. Members of a club or church might find the common ground helps mutual understanding but we can surprise or even shock each other. Traditionally we expect men to understand each other better than they understand women and vice versa, but there is a great variety of men and women making the common ground of gender no help at times.
There are some grounds, some emotions, some topics which make it so much harder to understand each other. Why do they vote that way? Why did they choose that job? Why that religion, of all things? Surely he can do better than go out with her? How does she justify that lifestyle?
Why do questions like this make understanding each other so much harder?
But do they? They are questions like any other. It’s not the question that makes things harder; it’s the starting point we each take which creates the problem.
He can never understand her if he is convinced she is too dumb to understand. Or if he is so sure of his view that her questions are dismissed out of hand. Or if he is so insecure that he will not discuss the matter at all. Or she cannot stop talking long enough to hear what he says. Or they have decided not to have anything to do with each other.
We might never fully understand each other but we can go a long way towards it if we want to and we try. It might be hard but it’s not hopeless.
And, as with so many “rules”, there is an exception.
The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.Romans 5:16
While there are limits to how well we can understand each other, how well my “spirit” can communicate with yours, God has no such limits.
His Spirit knows and understand exactly and completely all about us, and not just the trivial but to the very depths of our being. There is no hiding from God and there is great comfort in living in such an intimate relationship with our God.
He assures us of a wonderful and special truth:
15The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ 16The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
The limit in this relationship lies with us, as usual. We are restrained by human limitations which prevent us from understanding God as well as he understands us. Our thoughts and understanding never reach his level so that, although he fully understands us we never full understand him; however, we have the blessing of living in a relationship which puts us in the best possible position to live our lives in freedom and without fear and with a glorious and highly privileged future assured.