A few years ago I was sitting with my family on the deck of our cabin when it started to rain ash on us. It was odd because it was the middle of July and we hadn’t been alerted to any raging fires. Even so, we couldn’t deny that something wasn’t right and the fire department was called. Fire trucks pulled into the driveway in front of our cabin and the fire crews immediately started searching for the source. A fire in the woods can spread rapidly, so their sense of urgency was evident.
About 400 yards from the cabin a tree was smoldering and flames were starting to spread. The firefighters ran a hose out to the site of the fire and extinguished the flames. We were lucky that it had been contained so quickly with virtually no damage.
How did the tree catch fire? A few days prior there had been a thunderstorm and the tree had been struck by lightning. When lightning strikes a tree, it blows the bark off in a spiral pattern as it travels down the trunk into the ground. The tree then smoldered for days before finally igniting.
This is much like a person who has to be right in their opinion or their stance on a topic. It’s like a blast of lightening down a tree. At the very least, a lasting impression is made on the person who is made to feel wrong, but it could begin a smoldering that eventually ignites into a fire that destroys the relationship or closes the person off to ever having a different opinion.
Similarly a person who seeks only to be heard, is running the risk of leaving scars on a relationship. They have forced their point to spiral into the depths of the person who is forced to listen, not changing anything, but instead causing division, lasting damage, and potentially a spread of opposition, a fire of sorts, reaching all who will listen to the exact opposite of whatever agenda was being forced. To be heard and to be right, don’t bring about change or compassion.
Those who seek to be right or heard will only get the desired results when they speak to someone who thinks like them or has the same values. This is much like lightning hitting a metal rod, going straight into the ground and stopping there. It won’t spark positive change or desired results on a bigger scale.
Instead, if we speak to be understood we have the biggest chance to make an impact for change. To be understood we need to understand. We need to listen twice as much as we speak and allow others to have their opinions. This is more like lightning hitting sand, which then creates something amazing and beautiful. When people come together to understand and be understood love is free to flow. The message is still the same, but it is the delivery that is different.
“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.”
1 Corinthians 13:4-5
“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”