October 20, 2014

Seeking to Understand

When someone believes differently than us, why is our first impulse to criticize rather than seeking to understand?

When I entered motherhood, I was filled with fear about not knowing what to do or about doing something wrong. Mothering can be full of judgments, ones that we heap on ourselves, ones that are put on us and ones we put on others. It's this underlying fear to ~ oh please ~ not be wrong. People begin asking questions that feel like a game of finding out which team you're on: Natural birth or epidural? Breast or bottle? Crib or family bed? Stay-at-home or work?

And suddenly you're on a side and that side feels crucial; as if your side will determine whether or not you're a good mom. Of course, no one wants to be a bad mom. So when we see others who are not on our "team", we criticize them for bad parenting.

We do this in every area of our life. Why did she take that job? Why did he cut his hair like that? What possessed them to buy a house in that area? What they chose was different than what we would've chosen so it feels wrong to us and often we equate wrong as a fact rather than an opinion. We think it is wrong rather than thinking it's simply different.

Seeking to understand each other's view is scary because it might cause us to doubt our own ideals. It puts a spotlight on how many choices we have and how many we've made. It makes it clear how many ways there are to do this life and that's terrifying because it feels like leaving ourselves open to failure.

But gripping our opinions so tightly that we don't leave room for another's thought is a terrible existence. It cuts off people we could learn from. I know, because I've been guilty of it.

What if, instead of jumping into criticsm, we sought first to understand? What if we made that our impulse? What if we reached out to see things from their eyes instead of assuming we know all there is to know?

I've have had friends love me through our differences but I've also been judged by others for my decisions; we all have. Feeling judged is yucky and pushes you away. It feels more tender to have someone love you through differences; that's magnetizing and draws you near. I want that to be my character; it's still a huge work in progress.

I still feel the pull of impulses to argue with someone and make them see my side. I still have those moments when I'm sure I know what that person meant by their comment. But I am learning to let go, not assume and walk in understanding. 

I want others to feel loved by me, understood by me and accepted as they are. I long for my first response to be seeking to understand. I'm not there yet, but I hope to be someday.

Why do we struggle with understanding?


  1. I think we have to trust that everyone is doing their best and their 'right way' differs from our own. Thankyou for this thought provoking post. By the way is that you and your identical twin in the top pic? :) xx

    1. I wholeheartedly agree with you, Jess. Thank you for your sweet comment. Yes, that's me and my twin sister! :)

  2. I think our struggle is often born out of insecurity. Because we don't feel secure in our own decisions - we want everyone to choose the same so that we have affirmation. We (I) also tend to think that if someone chooses something different then it is a rejection of us. Great post!

    1. Sheila, wow, you nailed it. I've had both insecurity and rejection behind my lack of understanding.

  3. "that we don't leave room for another's thought is a terrible existence." Such a great statement here Catherine. Good post. Here's to understanding the different! xo


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