Is it possible to “know” something without understanding? Have you ever taken and aced a test because you knew the right answers, but you didn’t really understand the content or why they were the “right” answers? Are there any facts you know but don’t understand? I know my iPhone works, but it is still miraculous to me. I have no understanding of how or why it works – just that it does. Although I can use it without understanding it, I cannot duplicate it, improve on it, or explain it. I lack understanding where the iPhone is concerned.
As an educator, I want my students to get understanding. I don’t want them just to be able to regurgitate the right answers. I want them to understand why they are the “right” answers and how to come to that conclusion themselves. I don’t want them just to plug in the numbers and functions of a math or algebraic equation. I want them to understand place value and all of the mathematical or algebraic principles so they can apply the information in new equations or new situations. I want them to be able to solve problems! Understanding is a depth of knowing. Someone who understands, “get’s it”.
Webster’s 1828 dictionary gives an excellent description of understanding. It defines understanding as “The faculty of the human mind by which it apprehends the real state of things presented to it, or by which it receives or comprehends the ideas which others express and intend to communicate.”
Have you ever had a conversation with a spouse, friend, or family member and either heard or said, “you don’t understand”? We all want to be understood. In the context of relationships, we know that understanding goes beyond the actual words used to communicate. It reaches beyond the words and searches out the motives or intent. Someone who seeks to understand takes into consideration the expressed emotions, facial expressions, and body language – anything that can give insight and contribute to our understanding.
In the Bible, understanding is frequently paired with wisdom. How do we get understanding? Sometimes, God gives it as He did for Solomon (1 Kings 4:29, Proverbs 2:6). Understanding can also come by obedience to God’s law or precepts (Psalm 11:10, Psalm 119:104), reading God’s Word (Psalm 119:130), or heeding correction (Proverbs 15:32). Most of the time, understanding requires effort on our part. We have to seek it out, go after it, get it.
I want my students to get understanding.
“My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”