Richard Bethell (Lord Westbury) was a British lawyer, judge and politician. He served as Lord Chancellor of Great Britain between 1861 and 1865. One of the things he is remembered for is a conversation between him and an attorney that occurred during a case Lord Westbury was hearing. After hearing Lord Westbury’s opinion, the lawyer said he had “turned the matter over in his mind” and thought Lord Westbury should hear the other side. To which Lord Westbury replied, “Then sir, you will turn it over once more in what you are pleased to call your mind.” Not a very patient or understanding judge, was he?
If we’re being honest, all of us have a touch of Lord Westbury in us. But the Bible teaches us to count others as more important than ourselves and look after their interests before our own (Phil. 2:3-4). What are some suggestions for helping us see the other side?
- Learn to love people. Jesus loved people. And this doesn’t mean he loved them just in the sense of the whole human race, although he did (Jn. 15:12-13). He also loved people personally (Jn. 11:5). Many times interpersonal problems are due to a lack of love for the other person.
- Give others the benefit of the doubt. Real love “thinketh no evil” (1 Cor. 13:5, KJV). When you are troubled by a rumor or something someone has done, let your first impulse be to seek a reasonable explanation for what happened. This may result in disappointment, but it will never result in regret.
- Learn to walk in others’ shoes because one day you’ll probably be wearing them. George Washington Carver said, “How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these.”
- Try to see things from the other side. In John Maxwell’s book, Winning With People, he teaches the “Exchange Principle,” which states, “Instead of putting others in their place, we must put ourselves in their place.”
- Check your own motives. When problems occur, the odds are that sometimes it will be your fault.
- Communicate with your grievances, and do it quickly. Jesus pointed out that this is so important that it should be taken care of, even before you continue your worship (Mt. 5:23-24). Also, use tact. Remember that your goal is to understand your brother, not alienate him.
- Forgive. Long-term bitterness doesn’t do anyone any good. Learn to forgive and walk away with no hard feelings.
The next time you have a disagreement with another person, be careful how you respond. There are two sides to every story. Try to see the other side. Understanding others is a part of following Christ.