We had a visitor in Sunday school last week. A mom I’d never seen before dropped off her 5-year old daughter and left us to get acquainted. I noticed right away that this girl was full of personality. Her cheeks were covered in purple glitter and she was carrying a small, jam-packed purse. I asked her if she wanted to hang her purse up on the hooks by the door before joining her classmates on the rug for free time. Reluctantly, she hung it up and went to play with a box of Mr. Potato Heads.
A few minutes later, she went back to her purse and took out a simple calculator. Looking at the screen with a serious expression on her face, she tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and began to press the number buttons with her thumbs. Then she paused, sighed deeply, and returned her “phone” to her purse.
When the class sat down to hear a Bible story, I found a spot to sit next to my new friend. She smiled at me and whispered, “I have a boyfriend.” Apparently she thought that was all I needed to know about her.
This little girl had no trouble getting into the head of someone else—namely a teenager. She is wholly devoted to understanding the psyche and tribal customs of a girl on the cusp of adulthood. Her understanding may be flawed and stereotypical, but you have to appreciate her dedication.
The solution to so many of our relationship problems might be doing just what that 5-year old attempted to do—put yourself in the place of another. That’s not to say we should allow and excuse misbehavior and cruelty in our society, but we might be able to understand the reasons for bad behavior a little better from someone else’s vantage point—from their home life, their disappointments and their experiences.
As Atticus Finch in the novel To Kill a Mockingbird tells his daughter, “If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
Once we see things from their perspectives, our “enemies” can become regular, flawed people we understand and, then we can help them understand us better.
After that, we can do what the Apostle Paul devoted his life to as explained in 1 Corinthians 9. Paul says: “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” He goes on to say: “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”
When we can truly “climb into his skin” and “become all things to all people,” then we can truly extend to others the grace offered to us every day by the One who knows us inside and out.