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Nancy and I attended a community lecture with another couple. After the lecture, I asked them how they liked the program. The husband stated rather deliberately, “It was good,” [pause] “but the speaker talked way too fast.”
Instantly the wife responded: “Oh no! It was just right! How can you say that?”
There’s human nature again. We all have our reasons for seeing things the way we do. And we tend to be critical of those who see things differently. He likes things slow and deliberate. She is impressed by knowledge. In addition, a fast delivery makes her think the speaker is very intelligent.
And there were other differences. He is guileless so he expressed his concern simply and directly. She likes being positive so she was embarrassed by his “criticism” of a prominent speaker. (Ironically, we humans are quite willing to criticize the people who irritate us when they criticize the people who irritate them.)
We humans are so immersed in our own perspectives that we bump against others—especially those we see daily. The Lord beautifully expressed this reality: “there were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes” (D&C 101:6). In other words, we bump against each other. We quite naturally turn differences in our preferences into disagreements that damage our relationships.
This will not lead us to Zion.
Imagine that the wife was willing to lead with compassion rather than criticism. Imagine that she stepped out of her perspective for a time and joined him in his. She might have said: “That makes sense. You like time to think about things. I can see that you would have enjoyed the program more if he had not spoken so fast.”
Notice that she doesn’t necessarily agree with him; she might still believe that the lecture was just right for her. But she can understand and appreciate his perspective.
We don’t have to club each other with our differences. We can appreciate our spouses’ perspectives and celebrate the lessons we learn from them. As G. K. Chesterton said:
“How much larger your life would be if you could become smaller in it. . . You would begin to be interested in others. You would break out of this tiny. . . theatre in which your own little plot is always being played, and you would find yourself under a freer sky, in a street full of splendid strangers.”
Indeed. Our family members can cease being our enemies and can become those “splendid strangers” with whom we make our life journeys—even our eternal journeys.
When the Lord instructed us to “agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him” (Matthew 5:25), He may have been inviting us to be less prickly and more willing to appreciate other people’s points of view. This willingness will certainly bring us a step closer to Zion. We can show compassion rather than impatience when we see things differently.
The next time you are tempted to argue with someone, catch yourself. Seek to understand that person’s point of view. Take time to understand why it makes sense to him or her.
To read more about finding common ground in marriage, read my book, Drawing Heaven into Your Marriage. You might also enjoy reading more about Stephen Covey’s wise counsel in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, especially Habit 5: Seek first to understand…then to be understood.