Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Life–The Importance of Context

I remember many years ago as I was getting ready to mail my father a Father’s Day card that I felt compelled to put a much deeper message in it than the stock quote that was contained within.

While I wrote words of gratitude which many of us do, I also wrote that I finally “got it” – that I needed to become a father to finally appreciate what he had done for me over the years.

It was easy to be critical in my youth without having the context of the gifts needed to be a father – the gifts of wisdom, patience, correction, guidance and the many other things that a father calls upon as well as knowledge of the difficulties that a father faces daily.

The value of context changes how we see everything, doesn’t it?

How many of us look back on our earlier years and smile or shake our head as we remember how we handled certain situations with our then limited knowledge and Life experience?  Oftentimes, with our current Life experience, it feels like we are looking back on the Life of someone else.

Everyone has an opinion …. unfortunately

It seems in today’s world that we have an opinion on everything and everyone, oftentimes not having the slightest shred of experience, context or knowledge regarding the event or person.  Many claim to even know what God thinks of each event and person and they don’t hesitate to tell us what He is thinking of us at the moment.

I believe this has been exacerbated by social media in that we feel enabled and compelled to comment on everything while most of us know little or nothing about many of the things we comment on.

Maybe, instead of being hasty with a judgement or leaping in with “the answer” to a specific problem, if we took some time to listen, to observe and to gain context, then our observation or guidance might have greater value and impact for the person who needs it.

Maybe then our observations would sound less like noise and more like wisdom.


It reminds me of a favorite story of mine.

It’s a story of Rabbi Baal Shem-Tov, the founder of the modern Hasidic movement, who was overlooking his hometown with his students when the town was attacked by a group of Cossacks.  As the rabbi and his students watched, men, women and children in their town were slaughtered.  Looking up to the sky, the rabbi said "If only I were God".

One of his students asked "Master, if you were God, what would you do differently?".

Looking at his student, the rabbi replied "If I were God, I would do nothing differently.  If I were God, I would understand.".

Do you take the time to understand before you act?

How do you know?

In service and servanthood,


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