This seems so simple, yet how many do this? How many of us are willing to give first? Take listening, for example. Are most of us willing to give attention to others first? If we aren’t, and I am surely guilty of composing responses while listening, then why are we surprised when others don’t understand what we are trying to say? Seek first to understand to be understood is how Carl Rogers put it. Here are my list of areas where self examination may help illustrate how this may improve your life:
Prayer – Do you give God praise and love in all circumstances? By giving it first, God’s Word says He will give back to you more. So much, in fact, that He describes it as pressed down and overflowing. Think of what that image means. Press down something in a container and see how much more you can put in there. Now think of pressed down, AND then it’s overflowing.
Listening – Covered above. To listen is to say I care about you enough to realize what you are saying has value. I WANT to understand you. That’s pretty awesome feedback to the speaker. In today’s world of texting, surfing, and multi-tasking communication, do you think your stock will go up in their eyes? So, if you have been raised up in another’s opinion, doesn’t it stand to reason your communication will be regarded more highly? Think of prayer as speaking to God and meditation or quiet time as listening to God.
Speaking – Remember how you felt when someone “sang your praises?” Pretty nice! What was your impression of the person who spoke of you? Pretty nice. Would you want to interact more with them? Would you listen more closely to other comments they make? Of course, you would. Yet, how often do we focus on “me or I” instead of “you or them?” Start a conversation with a compliment to someone, or ask about what’s going on in his life first, and watch his reaction. Speaking in the positive, especially when dealing with a negative person, is one way to demonstrate your commitment to this principle.
Gossip – Covered in a separate forthcoming blog.
Honesty – Speaking the truth in love. That’s not the same as saying “To be honest with you…” In fact, if you have to use that phrase, something’s wrong. If you expect to receive honest sincere information from others, why not start the ball rolling. Each time. Every time.
I know what you are thinking: What if the person is someone you don’t trust? Let me answer it this way:
Has your way worked? Has giving less than honest, untrusting responses to this person improved the trust level between you? When my actions have indicated a lack of trust, all I have done is reinforce in another’s mind the reasons they need to continue to be untrustworthy. And what if you show trustworthiness first, and then they “burn” you or continue to remain untrustworthy? What have you really lost? Do you really think in such cases, others don’t notice? Do you think God doesn’t notice? And who sleeps better at night?
Effort – Ever wonder why others don’t perform the way you want them to? Perhaps it’s because your effort, however good, is for show and not for joy. If your effort is based on doing all things as if working for the Lord, do you care if no one else notices? And when you don’t care who notices, guess what? They do. And when they do, it rubs off. When you walk the walk you talk, others will follow. When you perform like you’re in the spotlight when it’s just you, that’s the effort that counts.
Generosity- John Wooden said, “It’s amazing what you can do when you don’t care who gets the credit.” And Paul reminds us that “The Lord loves a cheerful giver.” So what leads to such attitudes in giving? Ever played a game of chance or sports where you find yourself way ahead? You don’t mind giving some back, since you’re playing with “house money.” Contrast that with giving something of value when you cannot afford to lose it. But what if you realized that none of it was yours? Since God gave you not only a portion of his creation but also all your talent and ability, shouldn’t everything be seen as “house money.”
Understanding – Giving understanding. What does this mean? I remember the story of a little girl who came home and told her mother about finding her friend Jennie after Jennie had fallen off her bike on the way home from school. Her mother asked if she had tried to comfort her. The little girl said, “No Momma, I just sat on the curb with Jennie and cried with her.” Giving understanding is all about serving. Yet, how often do we think “judgment first, understanding next.” To give understanding requires us to recognize that we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Seeking first to understand rather than to be understood is another way to approach this. And trust me, all of us could use more understanding.