The Hard Work of Understanding Other People

Today from Howard Thurman’s Deep Is the Hunger, this on the hard work of understanding other people:

“The will to understand other people is a most important part of the personal equipment of those who would share in the unfolding idea of human fellowship.  It is not enough merely to be sincere, to be conscientious.  This is not to underestimate the profound necessity for sincerity in human relations, but it is to point out the fact that sincerity is no substitute for intelligent understanding.”

I hear him saying, politely, that one can’t merely feel your way into understanding others, it takes effort, and fighting the inclination to take the easy route.  Thurman continues:

“A healthy skepticism with reference to rumors, gossip, what we read and observe about others must be ever present, causing all these things to be evaluated by our highly developed sense of fact.”

Absent these meaningful efforts, “we are apt to substitute sentimentality for understanding, softness for tenderness, and weakness for strength in human relations.”  

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