I once read a story of a policeman who was heading home after a long, hard day on patrol. He had dealt with a whole succession of difficult people, and a mountain of frustrating paperwork. All he wanted at this point was to kick back, unwind, enjoy some peace and quiet, and maybe watch a few innings of baseball on TV. But, as he neared home, he was startled by a vehicle that came careening around a sharp curve and narrowly missed his squad car. As the car passed within a few inches of him, the other driver shouted “Pig!” The police officer was suddenly energized. He slammed on brakes, all set to turn his squad car around and head off in hot pursuit. But as he rounded the curve, … he ran head-on into a large pig that was standing in the middle of the road!
It’s a lesson we all should learn early in life : DON’T ASSUME! No matter how confident we are in our understanding of an issue. No matter how certain of another’s reasoning or motives. No matter how obvious the point may be to us.
Effective communication is far more complicated and difficult than we think. With barriers like cultural differences, personal “filters,” different definitions, etc., its amazing that any of us EVER understand one another. But these aren’t the most difficult obstacles. The biggest reason we aren’t able to hear/understand what another is saying to us is simply… “fear!”
Oh, we may camouflage it behind anger, self-importance or any number of other false fronts, but at the root is fear. It’s a powerful and many times crippling motivator. And most of us can summon up plenty of reasons why we shouldn’t take another at face value. Honest communication requires trust, and taking a risk. For many of us we’ve been burned too many times. So we settle for safety, make the natural assumption, and run head-on into our own version of that pig as we journey down life’s highway!
There is a better way. A way that recognizes our similarities. That sees others as a source of community and healing. That looks past our own frustration and previous disappointments to explore the possibility that even a “stranger” may have something positive to say.
The Apostle Paul described it in I Corinthians, chapter 13. It’s the “higher way” of love. I almost hesitate to use that term these days because of the way our culture misuses it. But when you read Paul’s description, try substituting “maturity.” It’s a perfect fit. The risks are higher for this way of living, but so are the rewards.
That doesn’t mean we should be naive. It does mean we should be careful what we assume. Check it out. Give others the benefit of the doubt. And if someone shouts something unexpected at us, at least entertain the possibility that perhaps it may be more than a personal insult.
Who knows, that approach could change our life.