By Wenping Li
A husband suspected that his wife had a hearing problem. In order to confirm this, he walked up quietly behind her and at about ten paces away, he asked, "Can you hear me, Huifang?"
His wife was busy and did not reply.
He then moved five steps closer and asked, "Can you hear me, Huifang?"
His wife still did not answer.
Startled to realize how bad his wife's hearing was, he moved up another two paces and asked, "Huifang, can you hear me now?"
This time he heard his wife say, "Yes, I can hear you! I've already told you three times."
As I laugh at the story, I sense that I am seeing a reflection of myself. How many times have I acted like this "husband?" That is, when there is a problem, I tend to think that it must be the other person's fault - but then it turns out that I am the one who is to blame! At least, I am a part of the problem. Sometimes, I think I am "being tolerant of" other people, without realizing that I am actually the one who is being "tolerated", or the one who needs other people's tolerance. Unfortunately, most of the time we do not even realize that we are deceiving ourselves.
The husband in the joke was not a bad person. Because he was not so "confident" about his suspicion, he used a three-step process to search for the truth. And happily at the third step he did find out the true situation, that is, that his dear wife had indeed retained her good hearing. We as the "husbands" may not even have this questioning spirit in regard to ourselves, because we genuinely think we have enough evidence to prove that there's nothing wrong with us.
Furthermore, if others share our opinion, we feel even more confident. As to how good the "hearing" of those who share our opinions is, and how good our own is, well, we don't have time to consider that. We have already forgotten the lesson we learned from the story of "The Neighbor Suspected of Stealing the Axe" from our early school days, or the stories of "The Blind Men and the Elephant" and "Three Men Make a Tiger".
The joke leads me on to another thought. When we are in the audience watching a movie, we often feel sorry for the characters who are not aware of the entire situation and therefore do not know the truth. Have we ever realized that in real life we are just like those "characters in a movie" too?
Like the characters in the movie, we too may not see the whole situation because of the particular position we are in. Our own personality, too, can stand in the way. These two factors alone are enough to disqualify us from judging others. Besides, most of the time, we already have some predetermined scenario in our mind, so we blithely see only what we want to see on many matters or about other people, the so-called "Picture In One's Mind".
So it is just too easy to argue and to hurt others. The Bible wisely teaches us not to judge others. Lovingly it warns us not to do what is beyond our ability for the sake of both our physical health and our spiritual health. The book of Proverbs tells us, "Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue." So, we who are born with "poor hearing" can improve our own "psychological environment" by not being in too much of a hurry to deal with others' "deafness".
Of course, there are times when we are not all that confident; we just want, like the husband in the joke, to confirm our suspicions. However, we still use our own ways to try to prove things. We may pause at the first step, or better, at the second step, and we may still jump to the conclusion that our wives are deaf. The poor "wife" gently saying "I can hear you", most likely had no idea that she was judged to be deaf, and that this deafness had upset the "husband" standing behind her or even hurt him, and got him thinking of lots of her past defects.
So this "deafness" reproduces itself. The form of "reproduction" depends on the symptom of the "deafness". If the husband has already decided that his wife's "deafness" is a serious problem, no matter how much he thinks about it, if he is not thinking in forgiveness and love, the "deafness" remains something unresolved in his mind.
He takes the "problem" with him wherever he goes - on vacation, to work, to meals, to the toilet...Just when the "husband" thinks he has forgotten about what has been bothering him, up it pops again and he feels as if the sunlight has suddenly disappeared.
It is not just that. If one day the "wife" finds out about this "theory of deafness", there is no telling if she might actually catch the "deafness" or "mouth disease", or even "heart disease" and "lung disease". And on goes the self-fulfilling prophecy. If there is no effective "brake" to stop it once and for all, the disease will go on reproducing itself.
As I thought about this, I had a horrible feeling. Consider. From childhood, through adolescence and on to old age, as we have passed through others' lives or traveled across others' worlds, we may never know how many women we have judged to be "Mrs. Deaf". So as we have travelled life's path we have been towing behind us this huge team of invisible people. What a pain!
Our lives are not meant to be like this. God wants us to have peace of mind, so that all "who are weary and burdened" can go to Him, and He may give us rest. He knows that we have so many dead knots in our hearts, and He wants us to forgive others as we were forgiven, so that we can cast aside our baggage and enjoy life. He wants to free us. The one who is set free by Him and His promises is free indeed.
However, we are often too "busy" to come to Him and receive this freedom of the heart. Besides, we think we are so smart that we cannot resist the desire to show our "depth" of thought and our "perceptiveness". But most of the time it is like this: as soon as we start thinking that being "deep" and "perceptive" is the most reliable way of dealing with people, we begin acting like fools.
Our being "deep" and "perceptive" and the resultant judgmental spirit, helps no one. It is destructive. It is like a double-edged knife, only good for hurting. It is also like a tangled ball of string, entangling both the one who is doing the judging and the one who is being judged. It hurts both parties and onlookers can only shudder.
Unless the parties have a faith that is deeply rooted in love, this monster will not disappear; instead it will grow stronger and larger, bearing the evil fruits of bitterness, hatred, self pity and self righteousness, etc. Even though we may have the fruits of joy and peace at the beginning, these fruits can be pushed off by the Evil One.
So, it is better for us not to try to be "deep" and "perceptive". The more unsure a person is of himself, the more open he is to wisdom. Because it is only when we are not sure of ourselves, that we will look for what is reliable and God-honoring. It is only when we realize that we too are simply actors on the stage of life, that we are willing to suspend our critical judgment of the other players and seek help from the Author of the universe. He is the One who knows everything.
It is hard for an intelligent person to realize that he is actually a fool, and the greatest wisdom of a fool is to submit his all to our all-wise Lord and allow Him to bring our life journey to its completion. As "wise fools" we can enjoy the blessings that only a "fool" is given and avoid the confusion and grief that can be caused by "smart guys".
When we act like foolish "husbands", we will realize that we actually have very nice "wives", who not only have "good hearing" but don't complain about their husbands' "deafness".
* This article was originally translated by the Overseas Campus Magazine. It was edited by Carol Tang later.
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