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Learning to understand
Pastor Andrew Velez

Recipe to avoid becoming angry. Step one: listen… Step two: don’t talk...Step three: avoid anger....

“Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). 

I remember a time when people shared morals, values, and beliefs with greater consistency and possessing a different set of morals, values, and beliefs elicited a response of general respect opposed to disdain and contempt. It seems as if we are living in a time where morals, values, and beliefs are developed and adhered to much more subjectively which contrasts the past’s societal norms. 

It would be easy to say that acceptance of differences in these areas has become standardized by an individual’s capacity for comprehension except that it appears as if it has less to do with capacity and more to do with inflexibility and choosing not to listen.

It is easy to declare that one hears and understands what someone, or a group, is saying or feeling but when what is being communicated contrasts the listener’s own morals, values, or beliefs the purpose of hearing what they are saying changes.  It seems as if many people are not hearing to listen and comprehend but rather, they are listening only to craft and respond with an argument that aims to discredit who is speaking and further their own morality, values, and beliefs.  Wisdom declares that “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only expressing his opinion” (Prov. 18:2). 

I have spent some time thinking about and wondering what it would be like if all people were the same.  How boring it would be if everybody thought and acted the exact same way.  A world of clones walking and thinking in unison.  I wonder how long it would take before we got on our own nerves?  

I suspect that our frustrations with ourselves would incite our anger faster than when dealing with the frustrations we have with others. The reality is that each of us is unique and created in such a way that we compliment each other.  Our different gifts, talents, and skills given to us to make up for the lack of those same things in others. 

Understanding how and why people are different from us can be challenging but a worthwhile endeavor.  Leaning our ears towards wisdom, it is beneficial to incline our hearts towards understanding (Prov.2:2).

Inclining our hearts is suggestive of an intentional action. It is prudent to recognize that as we hear what people are saying, we are usually hearing it through a filter of our own personal morals, values, and beliefs.  To truly understand what is being communicated, we need to intentionally remove that filter so that we can begin to hear to understand instead of just hearing to respond. 

We should listen to what the other person is saying while trying to understand why their morality might be different in a particular instance, why their values are different from your own, and how they came to believe the way that they do. Talking about what makes us different does not always have to be about converting the other person to your own subjective morality and values system and does not always have to result in getting angry.  

Talking, and listening,  about what makes us different creates an atmosphere of understanding that allows for respect to flow from person to person. This atmosphere is built on the aforementioned wisdom and sets the temperature for the recipe to avoid anger.

Andrew Velez is pastor of Victory Assembly of God and a member of the United Ministerial Alliance. 


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