Today’s Author: Kent Olson

Did you know there is a mountain in Switzerland named after Pilate?

Mount Pilatus – Photo Credit:

Once when we were visiting Switzerland, our friend took us around to see some of the sights. As we traveled in public transit, he pointed out Mount Pilatus. He, being Swiss, said its name with the usual European pronunciation of vowels as Mount Pea-lah-tus. Linda and I did not react as he expected. He knew we went to church from our days together in California. So, he followed up with, “You know about Pea-laht, don’t you?” It took us all a couple minutes to realize that he was talking about, as we would say: Pie-let.

This is a humorous story (with a weak connection to this week’s lesson), but it does show how even small things can keep us from understanding each other. This story was about just a difference in pronunciation. Misunderstandings can also come from not knowing or understanding differences in others’ backgrounds, their stories. I have misinterpreted someone’s comment or decision because I interpreted it on the basis of my own story or experience. The result may be humorous as our Mount Pilatus story was or the result may be disastrous as in the end of a friendship, a fight, a greater tragedy.

Misinterpretation is also present in global diplomacy—I’m thinking of Ukraine and Russia. Recent news analyses talk of the West not fully understanding Russia’s and Putin’s motives. This misunderstanding does not excuse the actions that have resulted in death, devastation, and tragedy. But the writers argue that a misunderstanding could create an improper reaction to stop the current and potential future aggression.

Several years ago, I was talking with the late Bob Hurlbut, and we somehow ended up on workforce management. He described (in simple terms) the psychological model of what we can see and know in others versus the unseen. And what they can see in us. Much of us is unseen, our history, our experiences, our families, our communities, the deep background of our people. Some use the iceberg analogy: only 10% of the iceberg is visible above water. Much of us is not visible to others. Our own deeper experiences and influences may not even be known to ourselves.

This lack of understanding can hinder personal relationships, workplace relationships, and global diplomacy.

Prayer: Dear God, give us the wisdom and patience to seek understanding of others and by others. Help us communicate in clear ways. Help us make decisions based on our fuller understanding of each other in both big and little things. Amen.

Mid-week devotions are authored by members of our community.  If you are interested in creating a trio of reflections to be shared on an upcoming Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, contact Pastor Peter.