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Understanding People

DSC_3703_2Dear Comfort Cafe Friends,

In this Bible Study series we are continuing to look at what it means to love the Lord your God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself. The lessons run monthly and focus on “Looking Inward,” (relating to and loving God), and “Looking Outward,” (relating to and loving our neighbor). In this series, the entire lesson each month is presented here on the front page. We hope you will join us in applying knowledge of God’s character to deeper levels of life. Previous lessons from 2014 remain available under the Table of Contents and Archive page.

©2013 Kay Smith and Ruth Wood. All rights reserved. Used by permission. User Permission Notice: This study may not be sold or used for profit. However, copies may be made for personal use. Questions? Contact: ruthywood@gmail.com.

Looking Outward

girls“You think you know someone by looking at his face but what can one face say about the thousand thoughts behind those eyes.” ~ Marianne Wiggins, The Shadow Catcher

From the safety of being known by God and growing in understanding of ourselves, we are in a better position to know others. If our goal is to love others effectively, it stands to reason that we must first understand them. Three qualities help us most when attempting to understand and love others—humility, curiosity, and openness.


I Peter 5:3 commands us to value others above ourselves in a spirit of humility. Humble people do not think of themselves as better than others. They are not arrogant, conceited, or proud.

Closely aligned with humility is respect. A humble person is respectful in word and deed. Peter underscores this kind of attitude when he commands believers to always “give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect . . . ” (I Peter 3:15b).


If we want to know others, we must develop a healthy curiosity about them. We will ask about their thoughts, experiences, feelings, history, hopes and dreams. Here are some interesting traits about people who cultivate curiosity (from http://www.fastcompany.com/3045148/work-smart/8-habits-of-curious-people):

They listen without judgment.
They ask lots of questions.
They’re fully present.
They’re willing to be wrong.
They make time for curiosity.
They aren’t afraid to say, “I don’t know.”
They don’t let past hurts affect their future.


Cultivating openness towards others means receptiveness to their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. It  involves understanding, acceptance, and responsiveness.

Openness also means not making assumptions and hearing people out completely. It means maintaining a nonjudgmental attitude and showing genuine interest. As believers, our fear may be that nonjudgmental openness will lead to, at best, an abandonment of discernment and, at worst, possible agreement with sin. This is a false understanding of godly openness.

We must understand the difference between “discernment/good judgment” and “being judgmental.” Discernment means to correctly observe the truth, yet how we respond to insight is critical. We can choose to respond with godly wisdom (good judgment includes compassion as well accountability) or we can choose to be judgmental. A judgmental attitude interjects self-righteousness and pride into the situation, poisoning the good that discernment offers.

Diving In


What kind of reaction does the word humility produce in you? Do you think of yourself as a humble person?


The opposite of humility is pride. Proverbs 13:10 says, “Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.” What does this scripture say that humble people do?

A Command

1 Peter 5:5 says, In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Based on this scripture, is humility an option as a Christian?


I Peter 3:15-16 says, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” How do humble people talk?


Quick self-check: When conversing with people, how curious are you about them?

Here are some tips on becoming a better listener (Quoted from

Strive to remain open to whatever transpires — without assuming, categorizing, judging or reacting. Ask more questions and listen with care . . . next time you converse with someone, make it your goal to learn as much about that person and his or her perspectives as you can. Instead of trading quips and reactions, give the person you are talking to space and time to really flesh out his or her ideas. Then prompt him or her to talk more with brief follow-up questions like “And then what happened?” or “Why did you think that?” Consider every conversation an opportunity to discover something truly interesting and thought-provoking.

One of the times it is most difficult to remain curious is when strong emotions begin to rise during conflict. Choosing to be curious first before expressing our own point of view may calme such situations. It also helps to ask for more information, or ask for specific examples, especially if it’s about our own behavior. As you express your view, maintaining the attitude, and verbally affirming that the other person may also have a point is equally important.

From the above tips, write out an area you hope to improve as you interact with others.

Openness requires that we maintain a nonjudgmental stance. Matthew 7:2 says, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6:37 says, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” What do these scriptures say about being judgmental?


Romans 15:7 says, “Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Openness leads to acceptance. As you think about understanding others in humility, curiosity, and openness, prayerfully identify someone with whom you’d like to practice. Write down the name(s)._____________________________________________________________

Lord, teach me how to love others through humble, open acceptance. Help me understand the difference between “being judgmental” and “practicing discernment with wisdom.” Make me teachable so that I may gain the skills needed to effectively love the people you bring into my life.