May 29, 1998 12:52 PM
by K Paul Johnson
The French proverb "Tout comprendre, c'est tout pardonner" (To
understand all is to forgive all) strikes me as having a
corollary. That is, the more misunderstanding, the more blame.
The immediate causes for this thought are twofold. First, the
current chapter my Search for God group is studying is on "Virtue
and Understanding" and the relationship between them. Second,
and more relevant to this list, is that my life experience
confirms that people who blame and condemn others' writings nearly always turn
out to have wildly inaccurate misunderstandings of what they say,
what they mean, what the author intends. It is almost as if there is a
direct relationship between incomprehension and hostility.
Now there are two obvious problems with this line of thought.
One is that it seems to have a subjective tinge, i.e. "If someone
truly understands me, they won't dislike anything I do." It is
certainly *conceivable* that someone could perfectly understand a
person's intentions and actions and hate that person. But
whenever I see really harsh condemnation directed against
anyone, there seems to be an element of misunderstanding. The second
problem is that in some cases the more one understands, the less easy it
is to forgive, for example genocide in Bosnia, Rwanda, and the Holocaust.
What kinds of misunderstandings are most prevalent? My own
experience suggests that people are most ready to impugn
destructive motives to persons who are not out to harm anyone.
It's very easy to think that the person who accidentally steps on
our toes has deliberately set out to cause us injury. And it
gets very karmically complicated when we *do* set out
deliberately to insult or offend or wound another, thinking we
are avenging a deliberate attack-- but when in fact the target of
such feelings and actions is innocent of any such bad will as we
Would welcome comments on my corollary hypothesis stated above.
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