Have you ever seen one of those optical illusion pictures that make their way around social media? The image is clear, but it looks like different things to different people. You see an old lady; someone else sees a young woman. And once you’ve identified the image as one thing, it can be very difficult (if not impossible) to make a shift to the other point of view.
A few years ago, a similar phenomenon—this one an auditory illusion—made the social media rounds. It was an audio clip where some people heard “Laurel” and others heard “Yanny.” And you probably got into an argument with a loved one about how they could possibly hear something different from you.
Jeff and I were no exception; we each thought the other was crazy. (After all, it clearly says Laurel, right? Right?) We started laughing as we recognized the silliness of our underlying assumption. And then we realized: there is actually a lesson here that could save every marriage, strengthen every relationship, and solve every division on the planet if every human being was able to apply it across the board.
Obviously, we’re all a jumble of imperfections, so that will never happen perfectly! But if we can just keep in mind one thought the next time we assume a spouse, friend, or random politician is just wrong, it would be a game-changer for us and for our culture.
Here is the thought:
“I can’t hear what you are hearing and I’m not seeing what you are seeing . . . but I trust that you are hearing and seeing it that way, and I care about you.”
Jeff explained this far more eloquently than I can, so here is what he said as he was processing it for me. Think on it—and see if you agree that it could be a game-changer for your relationships.
Understanding Our Spouse Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Seeing Things Their Way
Jeff put it this way:
I started thinking about how the Bible tells husbands to live “in understanding” with their wives—and I assume it applies equally with wives to their husbands.
I have always thought of “understanding” as meaning, “I get how this makes you feel” or “I can now see it entirely as you are seeing it.” I wonder if we might have that wrong. Perhaps it is something like, “I still can’t see what you are seeing, but I trust that you are seeing it that way and I love you.”
It’s like with the Yanny/Laurel phenomenon. My brain simply won’t allow me to hear Laurel. As much as I try, I can’t hear it. And you can’t do otherwise. I can never hear what you hear.
Accept That Your Spouse Thinks And Feels As They Do
I think this has a profound impact on men and women. Our research and books help people comprehend what the other person is seeing/hearing. The problem is that I think for many of us, we secretly or subconsciously believe that with this information—or with just a bit more education or teaching—the other person will see/hear things just as we do. It is a great thing to keep learning about one another. We have to do that. But at the same time, perhaps we need to acknowledge that we may never gain the ability to truly see things just as another person does. At least in some areas.
Rather, we just have to accept and trust that they are legitimately feeling that way. And instead of continually being dissatisfied as we try to educate or convince them into thinking another way, we just have to love them.
It’s Love One Another, Not Understand One Another
Then Jeff shared:
Like with you and me. If I’m honest with myself, I am probably thinking that my way of thinking is correct, and that you just aren’t able to think as clearly or as rationally as me! It’s probably why we try so hard to explain things to another person with whom we disagree: so they will be able to see just what we are seeing—and then realize that we are right!
Maybe that is why Jesus said we were to “Love One Another” rather than “Understand One Another.”
If that is the case, then yes, we can and should try to understand one another… but we won’t always see things the same as they do. Then the only solution is to Love One Another.
This article was also published at Patheos.
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