I know that in the grand scheme of things, a bad haircut is not that important. After all, in light of eternity, the length of time it will take for my most recent haircut to grow out won’t even be a blip on the radar screen. However, right now, it is a big deal.
What happened? I am still not sure, but here’s what I recall: I made an appointment and I texted my stylist exactly what I wanted and even sent a photo. When I got to the salon, and in the chair, I actually pulled my hair up, and using my fingers as scissors, showed her what I wanted her to do.
I asked for three things: don’t shorten the length, cut layers from the crown, and cut an underlayer, or undercut, in back. She said she understood, then she started cutting. Several times, I stopped her and asked what she was doing because it didn’t seem right. She continued to reassure me that when it was dry, it would be exactly what I wanted. I pulled up the photo and showed it to her again, and she promised me that was what she was cutting.
Wrong. When she finished it was exactly opposite of what I had asked for. I was shocked. When she saw the look on my face in the mirror, she went into a cutting frenzy trying to fix it! Scissors were snipping, hair was flying everywhere – and when I finally got her attention by yelling at her to stop cutting my hair – I had very, very short hair. She looked at what was left of my hair and was near tears; and so was I.
I tried to comfort her by reassuring her that it was only hair (I have a lot!), and that it would grow back (thankfully, mine grows fast), and that I would probably go to my stylist in Illinois for my next haircut – as soon as this one grows out enough to get it cut.
She texted apologies the next day, and I found videos on YouTube of exactly what I was trying to tell her I wanted, and sent them to her. Her response, “Oh, now I see what you meant. I can do that.” What? I searched with the exact words I used to try to tell her what I wanted her to do. YouTube understood. She did not.
Nevertheless, I was reminded of some valuable lessons (besides the fact that everything is temporary, this too shall pass, and God grows our humility in any way he wants) that we all would be wise to consider.
One, don’t make assumptions about what other people are saying. We don’t know everything and we need to ask questions for clarity and understanding.
Two, people may listen to us, but that doesn’t mean they hear us. We must practice listening in order to hear what others are saying.
Three, people often filter what they hear through their agenda. However, people rarely mistake what they see. While we can’t video everything, our actions must align with our words.
Trust me, with friends and family soon gathering for Christmas festivities, too often, there is heartache, misunderstanding, and frustration that divides friends and separates families because we made assumptions, used poor filters, didn’t listen, failed to clarify with questions, or put ourselves, our agenda, or our feelings above others.
I’ve fallen into these traps myself. And the thing I usually try to do is to start explaining, hoping to vindicate myself – which only serves to make things worse. If we weren’t understood in the first place, what makes us think we can clarify with more words? We just dig the hole deeper – or cut the hair shorter.
When we ask questions, it shows that we care about the person to whom we are speaking. We want to know what it is that they want to communicate. We practice humility: Life isn’t about me, it’s about other people.
When we seek to know what the other person is saying, it reveals a genuine caring for the other person. The Apostle Paul tells us that we should not pretend to love others, we should really love them. Love each other with genuine affection and take delight in honoring each other, and that when God’s people are in need, we must be ready to help them (Romans 12:9-13).
How can we help if we don’t know what they need? How can we know what they need if we don’t ask? And, when we ask, we can’t assume that we already know the answer, we must truly listen.
We need to practice listening to what people are saying. It is not easy to listen. And as soon as we begin thinking about our response, we stop listening – even if they are still talking. If we aren’t listening, we will inevitably misunderstand what they are saying.
Listening shows we care about the other person deeply, enough to give of our time to hear what they truly have to say. Solomon reminds us that if we give an answer before we hear, it makes us foolish and ashamed (Proverbs 18:13). There is wisdom in listening.
Finally, we need to let go of our agenda. My stylist evidently thought she knew what was best for me, despite what I wanted. She had an agenda. She put it forth. She was wrong. How often do we think we know what is best for other people? How often are we wrong?
Only the Lord can examine hearts and know everything there is to know about someone. Only the Lord can accurately point out offensive ways. Only the Lord can lead along the path of everlasting life (Psalm 139). We err when we try to force our agenda upon anyone else.
My hair will grow out soon, it’s only hair, but relationships that have been cut off because of miscommunication – well, that’s another thing. Our responsibility is to live at peace with other Christians, to be agents of reconciliation, and to forgive.
Is there a bruised or broken relationship in your life that is the result of your failure to listen, erroneous assumptions, or your agenda? Will you begin the process of reconciliation by asking for forgiveness, and then ask questions and truly listen without an agenda?
Perhaps you are the one who was misunderstood. Maybe the hardest lesson is trusting God to use your humiliation for your good. That is, afterall, exactly what God does. He is good, and he causes all things to work together for good, for those who love him (Romans 8:28-29).
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