In the second half of Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi it starts out, “Grant that I may not so much seek” and lists the things not to seek but to do instead. One of those things is not to seek to be understood but instead to understand. That one little phrase can take a life time to learn and is my greatest lesson. By the way I was very pleased to learn when I googled St. Francis that we share the same birth date, October 3rd.
There were times in my life when I would get frustrated as I try to get someone to understand me. I wanted to scream, “Understand me, understand me!!” I bet you can relate to that. What a waste of time and energy. It is easier to accept that there will always be people that will have no clue to who you are. How fortunate we are that there are people who get us.
In the long run, it is much easier to focus on understanding others. That takes acceptance and compassion for people exactly the way they are. OK, so that is not so simple, but it is not as hard as making someone understand you. What helps is to remember that we all feel, have issues, and want to be loved. If you imagine yourself in another’s shoes it will help.
A discussion I had with my boyfriend last weekend made me realize how much better I was getting at this lesson. I told him that at one point in my life I had studied with an Orthodox Rabbi to learn about my heritage, since I had grown up in a nonreligious home. I learned a lot from this Rabbi but I disagreed with some of his viewpoints.
One of his beliefs was that animals do not have a soul. I said, “They eat, poop, bleed, and have emotions, just like humans do.” I mentioned that in my late twenties, my guinea pig had died. A minute or two afterwards, I felt cold air going back and forth by my feet and ankles. I intuitively knew that is was my guinea pig, Gandolph. My boyfriend asked if I told him that. I replied, “No, he would not have gotten it. He was raised with his religious beliefs; he would not have been open to it, and why start an argument. It was better to keep quiet about it.” That was when I realized that this lesson is sinking in. I knew the Rabbi would never understand me, but I had understood him with acceptance and compassion. Plus I did not have to bother to prove my point and make him understand me.
Have I graduated from this lesson? Not a chance. Very few people do, it is worth striving for. The amazing thing is the more I focus on understanding people, the more I am understood. May you strive to understand others.