Wednesday, February 8, 2023
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Speak Your MindThe context

The context

I remember back when I was a child, I used to think that in order to be able to read a book in a foreign language, in my case English, I would need to understand each and every word in the text. So I used to think that I would need to keep a dictionary close to me so that I’ll be able to refer to it each time I encounter a word that I do not understand. And because that was my thinking, the thought of starting a fiction book in English would just tire me even without starting it. It would be like reading two books simultaneously, one the story book and the other being the dictionary. To encourage me to read in English, my father would argue that I did not need to understand the meaning of each word. If I know the context in which the word was said, it would give me the meaning of the unfamiliar word. So he would say read the whole sentence and from the sentence you will understand the meaning of the new word.

As an adult, this piece of advise stayed in my heart because I came to realize that a word gives meaning to the context, and a word also gets a meaning within the context. A word that we do not understand is given meaning by the context. And even a word whose meaning we know already can have different meanings depending on the context in which it was said. The importance of the context is such that, sometimes, the actual meaning of the word may not even matter to understand its true meaning.

It is not on rare occasions that I hear people fussing over the word or a set of words that a person said and getting mad about why the person said it in the first place. And it can be the case that these people did not understand the context in which the particular words were actually said. If they did, they would have had a different opinion. People get misunderstood because others did not want to make the effort of understanding the context in which they said whatever they said.

I always try to be careful not to be quick to judge people for what they said. I believe it is good to give people a chance by giving them the opportunity to explain themselves in order to be able to understand the full context. For me, the reason why a person said something, the way the person said it, the state of emotion the person was when they said it, the intentions they had when they said it, the natural characteristics or behaviors of the person who said it, the history of the person who said it, the social context the person was when they said it, the full story they were talking about when they said it all form part of the full context. I believe the thing that angered us might have resulted in a completely opposite feeling if the contexts were different.

We loose our friends, family members, work colleagues, our neighbors because we do not have the patience of trying to understand the contexts of conversations. We are too quick to judge because we are impatient about hearing the whole story. And that makes us cost the relationships we have with those who are closest to us. I know it takes a lot of patience and effort to be able to understand the full context, but the effort is worthwhile compared to what we have to loose for being impatient!

Contributed by Tsion Taye

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