Relationships & Understanding the Minds of Other People

Podcast Transcript: Welcome to the Inspirational Living podcast. This past weekend on Our Sunday Talks, we featured a fascinating perspective on the science of evolution, reincarnation, and the soul. If you enjoy thought-provoking discussions on spiritual topics, then you’ll enjoy Our Sunday Talks. Learn how you can gain access by visiting LivingHour.org/Sunday.

Now onto today’s reading, which was edited and adapted from Ourselves and Others by H. Clay Trumbull, published in 1889.

We do not fully understand ourselves. We do not fully understand others. We think that others do not understand themselves. We are sure that others do not understand us. It seems to us that if we understood others better, we should find it easier to get along with them. It seems to us that if others understood us better, it would be easier for them to get along with us.

Yet, as a matter of fact, most of our troubles with others grow out of our understanding others, and of our being understood by them. Indeed, it is through an understanding of one another that most of what we call our “misunderstandings” with one another come.

There are, it is true, many phases of our character which are a perplexity to ourselves, and which we are right in supposing that others can never comprehend. So there are many phases in the character of others, which must be a hopeless perplexity to them and to us.

Moreover, every character is many sided, and one of our worst sides is likely to show itself at a time when it would seem as if the exhibit of one of our better sides would have presented our entire personality in a very different aspect. Even so, it is what we do clearly understand, of those whom we know most intimately, that is the prevailing cause of our liking or of our disliking them; and it is what is clearly understood of ourselves by those who know us best, that mainly influences their feelings with reference to us.

That which is least understood in the character of ourselves would, as a rule, have least influence in the shaping of the estimation of us by those who know us well, if it were all made clear; and that which we do not understand of those with whom we are intimate would, as a rule, make little difference in our feelings toward them, if it were comprehended by us fully.

There are, of course, exceptional instances of concealment of character, resulting in a wholly false estimate of one whom we have good opportunities of observing; but in the ordinary intercourse of life, especially in those phases of it which give us most concern, the more frequent cause of misunderstandings is in understanding and in being understood.

We are often understood by others at points where we (in fact) misunderstand ourselves. We think ourselves generous; they know that we are selfish. We think ourselves free from vanity or egotism; they know our weakness in that very line. We think ourselves full of kindliness of heart; they know that a vein of unkindliness runs through all our estimates of others.

We think ourselves careful and exact in speech; they know that inaccuracy and exaggeration are the rule with us. We think ourselves uniform in our cheerfulness of spirit; they know that we are moody and impulsive to an exceptional degree. We think ourselves reasonably sensible; they know that we show ourselves weak and silly in the lesser and the larger affairs of life.

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