This may be obvious but…
Sometimes we read something like “Murray’s rule” and we don’t connect it to real life and that is a shame because a failure to apply this “rule” has caused great damage in many relationships.
Because of that, let me try to bring this down to the very bottom shelf.
Just imagine that you and I are talking about a particular subject and I assume you to be saying one thing and I go and tell someone else that this is what you believe, when I in fact misunderstood you and am misrepresenting you, then I need to own responsibility for that.
It was wrong and potentially hurtful.
It really is not much more complicated than that.
Now I think this rule may be more difficult to apply for people who are generally pretty quick and who don’t like to ask many questions. If you are normally a very intelligent person and you hear someone saying something, it is easy for you to assume that you completely understand what that person is saying without fully hearing them out. (Sometimes being a little slow has more going for it than people realize. You have to ask questions to understand!) But if you are the intelligent person, you may have heard people say similar things before, you may have read a little on the subject, and so your mind simply fills in the blanks. Then, when pride seeps in, you begin to actually think that you understand what the person means by what they are saying better than what they mean by what they are saying. And to make matters worse, you begin to share with others that you are confident that this is what the other person believes even when that other person would never say they believed that.
Maybe a scenario will help:
Suppose two people are talking about a controversial leader. Person B, we’ll call him, doesn’t agree with that leader, would never say that he agreed with that leader, doesn’t find that leader very helpful in general, but in the course of the conversation which he assumes is between friends mentions a sentence or two that the leader has said that he found thought provoking. Unfortunately, he doesn’t say the part about not agreeing with the leader or finding the leader helpful, he only mentions the sentence or two that he found thought provoking. Now the other person, person A we’ll call him, takes that as a wholehearted endorsement of the person and of the movement he represents and begins talking to other people and saying that person B is obviously part of that particular movement, without going back to person B and making those charges explicit or asking further questions.
What just happened there? Well, it is pretty obvious what happened there. It is a kind of slander. But why did it happen? That question is a little more interesting to me.
First, there’s probably some naivete on person B’s part. He may need to learn to be more careful about what he says and how he says it. Perhaps he needs to learn to be a more careful communicator. He probably hasn’t taken into consideration the different ways people think things through or maybe even assumes a higher level of friendship than was really there.
Second, there’s likely some pride going on in person A’s heart. He assume he understood what someone was saying and that he didn’t need to ask further questions to find out what they are really saying. Now you might say, it wasn’t pride because the other person didn’t share all the information person A needed. Yes, but before he goes and represents those charges as truth to other people, especially if there’s a friendship between the two, he should go back and ask further questions to make sure he is being accurate. He may even need to say, I hear you as being …. whatever the charge is, and ask, would you agree with that? If not, why not?
Third, maybe there’s a little of person A thinking he is smarter than he really is, that he can understand what a person is really meaning by what they are saying better than what they actually mean by what they are saying.
At the end of the day, it’s really all about love isn’t it? This kind of thing happens because of a failure to really love someone else the way Jesus loved us. Now, there, we have all done that which again brings us back to enjoying the great love Jesus has for people like us who fail to love others in so many ways. At the same time, let’s pray that God helps us do better at loving other people the way that He loves us.