“I understand” is one of the most misunderstood phrases I’ve come across in my lifetime. I have used it used myself, quite often and I’m sure you have too.
Its implied interpretation can fall under the following:
– I understand…(but):
o I don’t like it.
o I don’t have to accept it.
o That’s your problem, not mine.
o I’ll wait ’til you understand.
o I’m still going to believe what I want to believe.
o You’re not going to convince me.
o You’re not going to change my mind.
o I’m still going to do it my way.
o I’m going ahead with the plan whether you agree or not.
o I don’t feel the way you do about it.
o I don’t think in the same way you do.
o There has to be another way.
o I still disagree.
o I still think I’m right and you’re wrong.
o I’ll never forgive you for it.
o I’ll make you pay for it.
o It doesn’t make sense.
o What if…?
o Your opinion makes no difference to me.
o You’re still not going to get paid.
I really don’t (understand), I’m still confused, I’m just saying I do, so you’ll shut up about it.
I remember reading, Dumbth by Steve Allen, many years ago; a very insightful book on stupidity. He related many of his encounters with the problem of stupidity. But out of all the examples he provided to make his point, the one that stands out for me to this very day is the one about the donuts.
He asked the clerk the price for a dozen, then asked the cost if he got six instead of the dozen. The clerk, now adamant about how they could not sell six, it had to be half a dozen or a dozen; stated it was management policy.
(You may be laughing by now or have a smirk on your face about how can anyone be that stupid, but that was the point of the story; yes, stupidity does exist.)
Who was confused by this encounter? To me, perhaps both: The clerk for not knowing his math, and Steve for not understanding the depth of cognitive dissonance at work. Or, understanding it but at a loss for words to have this young man see his illogical reasoning.
Should he then have said; “I understand,” when in reality he didn’t, or, because he did but there was nothing else to say and whatever was called for in response to the clerk’s argument should be left unsaid and to interpretation. Consider the dilemma. “I understand” implies agreement. It wasn’t that Steve agreed with the clerk and his way of thinking.
What does one do in such a situation? Would he have carried this further and argued with the clerk about not agreeing with the company’s policy? Or by stating he understood, giving the clerk the impression that he did agree with the company’s policy? Any argument on the matter would have left the clerk more confused than he already was in his thinking, or lack of. This encounter did not allow for a quick lesson in mathematics, much less clarity of thought, or reasoning, or deductive thinking.
What it called for was diplomacy. “I understand” sufficed.
Someone else would have stated, “Yes, I understand it is the company’s policy but what I don’t understand is why the company would have a jerk like you working for them!” This would be the ordinary reaction of most people.
A multi-faceted view of the lack of common sense, of the lack of intelligence/knowledge obvious in the situation, and the abundance of tact and perception (and restraint) needed in such an encounter leaves a normal thinking person at a loss for words.
THE BIBLE INCIDENT
When I lived in Oregon, I purchased a Bible at a Christian bookstore in the nearby mall. After getting home I realized it was damaged, so I took it back the next day. But while at the bookstore I had noticed a slight stiffness that I usually notice in people who are not used to dealing with minorities. An underlying element of hostility existed in this Christian bookstore while I was there. I ignored it like I usually do. So, upon returning the following day, I knew what to expect.
What I didn’t expect was the hate-filled outburst from the man at the register who had processed my transaction the day before. He refused to accept the damaged Bible. I was taken aback at his open hostility in front of all the other customers in the store. He acted like I had damaged the Bible and even accused me of doing so. He acted like I was excrement begging for some toilet paper. I was openly humiliated and put down for my ethnicity and called STUPID – all for wanting to exchange a damaged Bible…in a CHRISTIAN BOOKSTORE!
And I was a Christian also but a born-again one who would not retaliate, who could not, would not fall into the enemy’s trap of falling into my previous life pattern of fighting back. At that particular moment I had to make a choice. And the only words that came out of my mouth were: I understand.
Now, I’ve gone into this here because I sense sometimes this is what some Christians expect from God. “It’s okay, I understand. I understand you are only human and you couldn’t resist. I understand my commandments are too hard for you to keep. It’s okay if you curse once in awhile, it’s ok if you fool around every now and then, it’s okay if you can’t stop drinking, smoking, cursing, and gambling and carrying on like the world does, it’s okay…I understand.”
And some Christians say it too: “It’s okay, God understands. God understands I am only human. God understands I am still on this earth. God knows my weaknesses, so He understands”. And so on.
Yes, He understands, but does it imply agreement on His part? Does it mean He likes any of it? Will He debate the matter with you? Do you realize He understands much more than you give Him credit for?
When a person becomes born-again, his aim is to please His Lord. He wants to know what He said about things that pertain to his new life as a believer. He wants to make sure he doesn’t sin against Him. He wants to know how to best serve his new Master. And most of all, he wants no part of sin.
A life-change takes place. Every step taken is a step taken towards separation from sin, from the world’s ways. Every thought is brought into captivity to Jesus Christ. There is no settling for less. Settling for less means we want to keep one foot in carnality and the other in spirituality. It means not understanding what He expects of us, but expecting Him to understand what we expect of Him.
Because He is given credit for being a merciful God, full of love, grace, and compassion, this can be taken as a license to continue in sin, for (He understands). The part of the Bible I notice some shy away from is the book of Revelation. The less known about how it will end, the less to worry about for they are saved, no matter what they do, it doesn’t count against them…they reason. It’s okay, He understands.
It’s like this; He is not going to argue with you or reason with you. He has sent His Son, His Holy Spirit, His Holy Bible, His prophets, His apostles, His missionaries, His ministers, His many saints, and sometimes even His angels…what more do you want? Remember the unspoken words behind the words “I understand.” Now, imagine His unspoken thoughts (for His ways are not our ways, nor His thoughts are not our thoughts), behind your interpretation and presumptive deduction that it’s okay, He understands.
Hasn’t it hit you yet who you are dealing with? You are dealing with the Most High God, God of life, of the universe…your Creator. He was already hurt with having His Son crucified on that tree in order to bring you the gift of salvation, so why is this gift taken for granted and not recognized for its priceless significance in your life? How can you justify your actions before Him just because you misinterpret His understanding— as an agreement that it’s okay to continue in sin?
The carnality has to go, my brother, my sister, in Christ. There is a price to pay to be holy. He understands, and someday, I hope…everyone does too.