I read this “selection” to my first grader this morning:

See the tree.
The tree is a home.
What can live in the house?

See what lives here.
It is for a raccoon.
Raccoons can live in trees.

The raccoon can go in.
It can go out to get food.
It gets corn and fish to eat.

And then I asked him a series of questions. The first was this:

Draw a line under the best name for this selection.

  1. A House for a Fish
  2. The Raccoon’s Home
  3. The Tree’s Food

As a little 6 year old he listened intently to the passage and made his best guess, choosing #2, and he was correct.

____________

As we grow in our learning, we move toward more extensive efforts to piece together as many facts as possible to create an even greater understanding of the context of specific quotes, chapters, and books.

We are then taught how to write thoughtful, appropriate, and accurate responses.

Let’s play “school” for just a moment.

A few weeks ago I wrote a “selection” on motherhood.

Q: The main intent of my writing is to:

  1. Encourage moms to pridefully judge other moms in Trader Joe’s.
  2. Give a specific list of do’s and dont’s and if you fail at any of them you are condemned and considered a horrible parent.
  3. Make as many people as possible feel bad about themselves.
  4. Strongly discourage mothers to have alone time.
  5. None of the above.

A: If you answered #5, you are correct.

If you answered anything else, I’m terribly sorry but you’ve answered incorrectly.

Yet, these were some of the actual responses that I saw come across the feed…

  1. “I am just sick and tired of people judging me in Trader Joe’s.”
  2. “All I hear is a list of rules and condemnation. Now I just feel worse about myself.”
  3. “Sorry, I can beat myself up on a daily basis. Don’t need the help of anyone else…particularly when there isn’t much more than “do better” advice.”
  4. “It gave me the distinct impression that a mother should never put her own needs first. Because as a mother of 4, I can attest that my kids and husbands needs are never ending.”
  5. “I do not believe that this author loves Jesus at all because she used the Lord’s name in vain (ex: “Good Lord why are there so many shoes…”)
Webster defines the word comprehension as this: the act or action of grasping with the intellect. 
Google dictionary says it this way: the action or capability of understanding something.
 ____________
I can sometimes stare at my computer in complete bewilderment as to how such incredibly incorrect conclusions can be drawn from something so radically otherwise intended.
Sometimes I imagine sitting face to face with a commenter, not at all to defend myself or anyone else, but to honestly seek out the mind roadmap of how in the world the thought process landed there, with that conclusion.
We teach our kids when they are little how to read a short text and draw correct conclusions. We ask them: What is the main idea? What are the supporting ideas?  What are the meaningless details?
But when it comes to real life situations how do we get so off track?
____________
Reading inaccurate responses from others gives me a great deal of compassion and is deeply convicting as I must also face the reality of how often I, too, have drawn radically incorrect conclusions in situations as well.
Last year Matt and I got into a huge fight about tostadas…and I’m not even kidding. I was at the end of my rope, had not even had a chance to wash my face for the day, the schedule of the evening had completely gone off track, and by the time he’d gotten home I’d had it…with everyone and everything.
What began as light banter about what we were having for dinner, him simply asking if I knew how to make tostadas, quickly escalated to hurt feelings and anger, as I responded as though he had just told me I was stupid and didn’t know how to cook.
One thing led to the next, and we spent the rest of the evening trying to sort out a slew of hurtful words and emotional drama. We spent half the night in separate beds…(pathetic right??? I know…I know….I think so now too…)
Matt was bewildered.
I can remember him staring at me with the same expression I sometimes have when I stare at the comments on my computer.
____________
I am confident that if I were to be examined on the accuracy of my comprehension I would have been given an F….with a big circle in dark, red ink.
What happened that night?! How did we get so off track?
 •
Put simply, I took the easy route.
It was far easier to take one comment out of context and make that the big issue.
It was much simpler to make the moment about me, what I wanted, and what I felt I needed.
It was much more emotionally satisfying to let out my feelings of hurt over an unimportant detail, turning that small thing into the biggest thing and use it for my greatest emotional gain.
It was convenient to manipulate and swing the entire course of the conversation to my favor to get the attention I craved.
It was appealing in that moment to feed my personal insecurities, excusing my grossly inaccurate comprehension of that particular “selection” because I was exhausted, fed up, and felt I deserved better.
Bottom line…
I created unnecessary confusion and chaos, trading in an opportunity to grow, for undeserved sympathy and unnecessary apologies.
____________
When we:
-choose to hear and comprehend someone else accurately…
-refrain from snap judgements and knee jerk reactions…
-choose to draw good and accurate conclusions…
-are purposeful to see the situation from a wholistic perspective rather than a narrow self-serving perspective…
…we are required to give more than take.
And this isn’t just true for marriage.
Learning to comprehend information accurately and growing in giving more than taking, is absolutely necessary for all relationships and situations in life.
This would be true in parenting, in the relationships we have with our neighbors, friends, co-workers, within our sports teams and churches. This would be true for the articles we read online, the books we purchase, and the cultural issues and stories we see in the news…
Have you been quick to draw conclusions and quick to react to others?
How have you responded poorly to a situation or person because of inaccurate comprehension?
Have you caused unnecessary chaos by turning a small detail into a main idea?
When, and to whom, have you not given the benefit of the doubt?
Do you assume the worst in others?
Do you tend to speak more quickly than you listen?
Have you approached a situation narrowly as you have made it only about you, your preferences, your feelings and your needs?
Have you allowed your emotions, including exhaustion or stress, to justify or dictate your responses?
Have you allowed your personal insecurities to distort and impact your interpretations?
If you find, like me, that you read through these questions and can feel a weight of heavy conviction, please know there is grace. Grace for you and grace for me too. And it is His kindness that shows us where we’ve gotten off track.
If He truly is a loving Father that genuinely cares for His children, and I am confident He is, we cannot assume He shows us these things about ourselves for our harm. To draw that conclusion would, again, be inaccurate. He shows us these things that are wrong in our hearts that we could be set free and no longer find our hope in things that have no power.
The growing awareness of our brokenness is an ongoing invitation to continually look to Jesus, who was broken on our behalf and makes us whole.
We cannot respond accurately or love others more than ourselves apart from Him.
Jesus is not just our example, it is His Spirit that gives us the strength and awareness to live differently and change our wretched, selfish habits. To attempt to change ourselves or love others apart from Him is to try to hold water in a broken jar.
I pray that we would draw near to Jesus and intentionally grow in making every effort to accurately comprehend the conversations we have, the things we read, and the people we encounter…and respond accordingly with increased accuracy, compassion, self-control and love…for the good of others and our joy…but ultimately to His glory.
“for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”  – Jeremiah 2:13
*A portion of this article was originally posted on 
The Courage on November 1, 2017.

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