Thursday (or as my 4 x 10 hour schedule wife thinks of it Friday) is upon us. I hope your day goes smoothly and your loved one with dementia gets some rest from their anxiety this fine day.
My topic a la mode today is “understanding” and I hope you are able to understand my heart a little better as you skim this piece on your way back out to check out the latest FB memes. 🙂 Don’t worry…I will join you shortly. First a few verses about understanding for context:
“Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.” –2 Tim. 2:7
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.” –Proverbs 3:5
“My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.” –Proverbs 2:1-5
“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
but only in expressing his opinion.” –Proverbs 18:2
“The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water,
but a man of understanding will draw it out.” –Proverbs 20:5
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” –James 1:19-20
“Old English understandan “comprehend, grasp the idea of,” probably literally “stand in the midst of,” from under + standan “to stand” (see stand (v.)). If this is the meaning, the under is not the usual word meaning “beneath,” but from Old English under, from PIE *nter- “between, among” (source also of Sanskrit antar “among, between,” Latin inter “between, among,” Greek entera “intestines;” see inter-).
That is the suggestion in Barnhart, but other sources regard the “among, between, before, in the presence of” sense of Old English prefix and preposition under as other meanings of the same word. “Among” seems to be the sense in many Old English compounds that resemble understand, such as underniman “to receive,” undersecan “examine, investigate, scrutinize” (literally “underseek”), underðencan “consider, change one’s mind,” underginnan “to begin.”
Perhaps the ultimate sense is “be close to;” compare Greek epistamai “I know how, I know,” literally “I stand upon.” Similar formations are found in Old Frisian (understonda), Middle Danish (understande), while other Germanic languages use compounds meaning “stand before”
*****************One more extremely important thing: Watch this discussion on race hosted by my church: Link BTW…this is a long video (and it starts with 8 minutes of just a picture…), but it was amazing and will teach you more than I can do in 10,000 articles… Some of the rest of the article depends on you watching it…so please give it a watch. 🙂
Yesterday I had a nice visit with mom. For the first time in 98 days we were able to talk with no glass between us. There was a screen window and we had masks on, but it was a step in the right direction. (Mom ditched the mask, toot sweet.) Mom’s speech is pretty rough, but yesterday it seemed somewhat better. We tried to explain to mom, yet again, why we can’t come in. (She reeeeeally wanted to sit next to us). The pivotal moment in the visit came at one point when she said either “What did I do?” OR “What do I do?“, and this confusion is the impetus for this article.
A few thoughts about understanding (and with the assumption that you watched the above video about race):
- With closeness, there is a better chance of understanding. Proximity breeds empathy. We struggled to understand mom’s words yesterday, but it was better. It was far better than my Zoom calls to her. It was even considerably better than the normal window calls because there wasn’t glass nor a speakerphone required. The closer we get, the more we understand. Back before the pandemic, this was also extremely true. When you take time to see every Sweet 17 damsel in distress as a person and try, you can see glimpses of the former version of them. You also learn and see things that increase your empathy/sympathy in unique ways. Interestingly, the video on race also encouraged togetherness and proximity in much the same way. You have to actively try to understand why a person of color (especially an African-American) would struggle with police to fully “get it”. Setting aside politics, please realize that there is more there than you know, and the only way to understand is to share time…break bread with people different than you. That is what Jesus did…and we should too. Ask questions. Learn. Grow. It doesn’t mean you have anything less than respect for police….but it will help you understand. (See around the 49:00-51;00 mark of the video linked above…and, heck…the whole video).
- We have to actively listen to understand. Be quicker to listen and soak up what is said instead of listening out of the corner of your ear as you formulate your response. I need work on this and, I expect, some of you might as well. I was so worried about silence and coming up with something to say with mom that I missed understanding which of the two questions she asked us. There is a huge difference in meaning and response to mom saying “What did I do?” versus “What do I do?”. The first version says that she is sad (thinking she is being punished) and the second says she is confused. Both are desperately hard to hear, but we needed to hear them to understand correctly….and we didn’t. As far as the race question, our bigger problem is a phenomenon called an echo chamber. An echo chamber is “an environment in which the same opinions are repeatedly voiced and promoted, so that people are not exposed to opposing views“. All sides of the race issue struggle with this. I live in a bubble and sometimes only surround myself with people just like me. (Maybe that is why I am alone a lot?!?!…but I digress…). We live in such a polarized world that we all cling to our sides and reject hearing…and understanding differences. This needs to change.
- Understanding does take some work….BUT: Talking and “communicating” with mom face-to-face the last couple of years was very hard. The temptation…the very natural temptation…was to correct mom’s speech/memory faux pas, especially 2 years ago. Other times it was hard because it was sad. I found myself sitting around in the parking lot being sad about how she was for far too long many, many days. It took me quite a while to understand even the basics of communicating with her or any of the Sweet 17. This article arose from the experience and I hope it helps. Communicating about race these days can be nearly as hard, but for different reasons. Some of the same rules apply (don’t you dare read too much into that.). Limit your words. Make and keep eye contact to ensure that you are truly listening and are giving respect. Watch your voice and tone….non- verbal cues and the tone and volume you say something can lead to misunderstanding. Don’t understand a concept? Ask for it to be said a different way. Avoid information overload. Listening with understanding isn’t debating. There shouldn’t be fact bombs being lobbed. Lastly, listen, and understand, hard. Try.
- There are amazing rewards/benefits to understanding. I had developed an amazing relationship with mom version 2 the last year or so. I feel like I could see glimpses of the old mom and I enjoyed the “new” mom on her own merits as well. Sure it is hard, but it was completely worth every visit. The last 98 days of Shawshank (the rightful lock down of the nursing home) have been very hard to retain this communication. Mom doesn’t understand that the piece of plastic is talking to her, but I feel like there are times she recognizes the voice, the funny sounds I make at her, and the “conversation”. Oh, how non-verbal cues come in handy for understanding! Now, I can give you 20 reasons why loving fully and empathizing with the plights of those of a different race/life situation than you is important, but let me start with an easy one: You bring glory and honor to your God. Anything less than loving all of humanity is sin. Jesus was punished and died because of sin…our sin…so we wouldn’t face the punishment and eternal death from it. As if that isn’t enough, here are more very important reasons: Perspective. I am sorry if this is a cliche to you, but the truth is you are missing a tremendous amount if you only stay around people like you. The amazing cultural differences, the fun quirks, the breath-taking life experiences…all missed when you don’t seek out and try to understand. Limiting your close friend pool is never a good idea. Another way of saying this may seem odd, but it shouldn’t: There are multiple “ways” to read and interpret the Bible. I favor the grammatical historical way of reading/understanding it, which says that you will learn the accurate meaning and application of a text only when considering how the original reader would have understood the text with everything that entails. There are bridges of understanding you must be willing to cross. What did this word mean to them? Were they being persecuted or were they at war? What was going on? What is the context of the verse as far as words AND as far as a living context? Am I saying there isn’t application for me 2,000 years or more later? Not even a little bit. But not every verse is about me. Oh, but when you see it that way, the Bible comes alive! Similar on race. Listen to the words…yes…carefully…BUT listen in context of what you know about them and from their lives, keeping in mind the last 150 years of history as well. I hadn’t really thought of the topic with the analogy of the Monopoly board before catching that in the video above. I will try harder and I hone my understanding and fight the (intentional and not) sin in my heart. I want to understand.
- Please, please, please think before you talk (and especially before you post to social media). This is a hard lesson for me and one that I have been working on since before Facebook was a thing. With mom today, it isn’t so much of a problem. I don’t say a lot and most of what I say is pretty similar. However, rewind a few years or even several and every time I ignored the phone ringing or cut our calls short, every time I drove close enough to stop by, and every time I was frustrated with mom for forgetting to do something come back to me too often. The sadness of looking back at missed or squandered opportunities are part of why this disease has been so hard to deal with for me. The guilt is very hard and the words of 10 years ago are still fresh. If we could only learn, as James stresses, to tame our tongue! So many stupid things I have said to mom over the years, making her cry at times outwardly and oftentimes inwardly. It is savagely hard to unsay or unpost stupid things that come form our poor understanding. Think first, please. Oh, and remind me to too. 🙂 Exercise charity. Grant grace…that same grace that was granted to you. Learn to understand…not just to pass a test. And last, as momma…and most mommas… used to say “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all!”. We have to rally together in love and understand and stop with the anger.
- Perception is reality if it is happening to you. Watch the video. This will make more sense when you do.
- Not understanding stinks. I wish everyone knew about dementia, not for my benefit, but for the countless folks that need help/visits/love/prayer and aren’t getting it. We need a cure for dementia. Heck, even a treatment that was worth its salt would be a start! But that won’t come until more people understand the scope of the problem. The same can be said of race… I don’t understand nearly as well as I should. I have been intentionally and unintentionally sinful with far too many folks in my nearly 50 years. I have spent plenty of time in my echo chamber too. However, I am committed to fixing that…and… as always…I am committed to #EndALZ.
Update: The visit was nice. Next week it appears we will be able to so\it outside with her (6 foot apart). It is closer. I would love everything to be back like it was, but not at the expense of those in the nursing home. We’ll get there…
BTW: Here is the new DHSS/MoDoH Guidance: Link They are doing their best to balance understanding the need with helping keep COVID out.