I am constantly amazed at my kids’ wisdom. They have spoken some incredible truths into my life as we lived through both great and trying times together. During a particularly difficult time for us all, my son Ike, was getting stuck in the middle of a bunch of people (some good and some not) and their opinions about my life.
It killed me. There was no way to address these uninvited commentators on our world. He was 14 years old and surrounded by adults talking about things that any good human would not talk about to him or around him.
I asked him, “How are you doing? How are you handling all of this?” His answer was amazing.
“I listen, understand, respect, and love.”
We quickly added this to our repertoire of life slogans. I joined him practicing listening with the hope of understanding how to pray. We practiced respecting them as God’s creation, regardless of how right or wrong we wondered they might be. We practiced loving them despite the fact that the love should have been flowing toward us.
Listen. Understand. Respect. Love.
The practice brought peace to us. It set us free from judging or even taking the comments as seriously as we took trying to understand their misguided pain. It set us free from feeling like we had to defend, vindicate, or answer. Sometimes, we found they had a reasonable point. Sometimes, we realized that their behavior was terribly not adult. No matter—we listened, understood, respected, and remained committed to love (sometimes from a distance).
Life went on and these hurt and hurtful people moved on to other people’s stuff. But, these words had begun a great work in us. We have found that these words had even more power in less oppressive situations. These four words have helped us listen to other people’s hearts. These four words have helped us to love beyond our means.
These four words no only brought peace to us—these four words have made us better, more effective bosses, students, team members, collaborators, and helpers. These four words, when leveraged properly, can set others free, too.
Do you listen? Are you good at understanding? How do you respect those that are speaking around you? How do you handle people who are wrong?