Letting Go of Understanding: Answers That Elude Us

In my most recent post, I wrote about “going forward” values, knowing what you want to do instead of arriving at a certain place by process of elimination (“I won’t do this” or “I could never embrace that”). Now, I’m turning the tables and asking you to examine your reactions when someone important to you announces that they are pursuing a path/career/relationship that makes you wrinkle your forehead in consternation, revulsion, or disapproval.

 

“What? Are you crazy?” you might think to yourself about someone else’s choices. “Do you honestly believe that this is going to work?” Try as you might, you can’t fathom why or how another person could reach the decision they have. Each of us, eventually, will be tested by such circumstances. It will test the limits of our ability to accept something we don’t understand. Watching someone we care about go in an unexpected, troubling (for us) direction will test our ability to refrain from negative commentary and make us stretch uncomfortably to integrate this new dimension into our concept of who this person is.

 

What I’m saying goes beyond judgment of another’s choices. We make judgments everyday. The difficulty arises when, as much as we may strive to be respectful and accepting of those around us, we cannot understand why they are doing this. We may genuinely love and care for this person, but are horrified by or deeply concerned about the choices they are making. Mystified, we may even feel vaguely threatened.

 

“I thought I knew you,” we mutter to ourself. “Where is this coming from? Can’t you see what might happen? What in God’s name are you doing?”

 

I am aware of a situation which involves a number of people witnessing someone close to them grow increasingly unhappy. Clearly, there is something seriously amiss for Person X but he’s not talking and has made it clear that he will broker no questions, concerned gestures, or anything else. No one is close enough to observe daily behaviors, so speculation runs rampant amongst those who are fretfully watching this from the sidelines. Desperate to make sense of it all, they speculate amongst themselves which does absolutely no good; there’s no reason to believe such conjecture comes close to being correct.

 

At a point such as this, when there is nothing to be done to help or even to confirm that X is as unhappy as they appear to be, I contend that it is better to stop speculating. Stop trying to understand.

 

Remember, the aim of this post is to turn around my last contention about being clear about what you want and working towards that—the point here is to find a way to work with and accept another person’s choices, even when you don’t understand why they’re doing what they’re doing. What if you come from a family deeply entrenched in one political or religious philosophy and, out of the blue, your relative announces that they’re converting or switching parties or subsuming everything they say they valued in order to maintain some relationship?

 

You could spend all day trying to suss out what is going on in another’s head, but it may prove fruitless. At a certain point, even with those we love and care for dearly (I’m referring to adults, not children), we have to accept the limits of our relationship to them. We have to love without understanding—easier said than done—especially if what they’re choosing goes against so much of our world view.

 

It’s easy to lose sight of this in a culture where “finding the answer” is a main theme. Learn to accept without understanding! Is it really so unbearable to be mystified? Sometimes, in our zealous quest for answers we forget something more important: loving the person we care about, despite our confusion. As Re-booters, we have seen enough in life to recognize that although we may not be changing at the moment, there are plenty of those around us who are. Re-booters need to flex for them, too, even when we can’t wrap our minds around it.

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