Put Down Your Fists

“I understand a fury in your words
But not your words.”- William Shakespeare, Othello

This quote from Othello is a pivotal statement from Desdemona, the wife of Othello.  His accusations of her unfaithfulness cause her confusion. However rather than becoming defensive, she asks for clarification. She doesn’t understand where Othello is coming from. His fists are up but hers are not.

Take a moment and think about how a lot of situations become larger than they should.  Words are perhaps the most powerful weapon available to everyone in all parts of the world. Words are also where conflict can either rise or stop.  But how much of that is because of a misunderstanding? How often do we mistake what we hear and react in a way counter to what was meant? Too often as it turns out.

For example, I once had a professor say, “I’m glad the US dropped the atomic bombs on Japan.” He had more to say but before he could he received a large outburst from the class. Accusations were thrown and a general disbelief at his apparent inhumanity was tangible throughout the room. However, he handled it with grace and asked us to listen to the whole statement he had to say.  He repeated, “I’m glad the US dropped the atomic bombs on Japan.  It did two things besides massacring a people. It stopped a war that seemingly had no end point and would mean the deaths of millions of men in the years to come and it also woke a lot of people up to the reality that we had gone too far.” There was the full message.  He didn’t support the use of the bombs.  He didn’t support the massive killings that happened because of the bomb.  Instead, he supported a return to humanity. We, his students, did not hear everything we were supposed to.

There’s a challenge in this. The root of so many misunderstandings and conflicts in our lives are because we don’t hear what is being said.  We listen but we latch on to small parts rather than the whole message.  As a result, our interpretations fall short and our fists go up.

So that’s where the quote above comes in to play. Simply using that phrase (or your modernized interpretation) gives you and the speaker the chance to understand one another.  It takes so little energy to get to this point whereas it takes so much more to engage in a war of words or fists.

There’s a song by the group NEEDTOBREATHE called “More Heart, Less Attack” and I think it states quite beautifully the challenge for us all here.

“Be the light in the cracks
Be the one that’s mending the camel’s back
Slow to anger and quick to laugh
Be more heart and less attack

Be the wheels not the track
Be the wanderer that’s coming back
Leave the past right where it’s at
Be more heart and less attack”

No, this isn’t a simple thing to do.  Emotions are tough to handle. It is really difficult to control a knee jerk reaction. However if we were more heart and less attack, how much damage could be saved?  If we put our fists down, what kind of beautiful image could appear? Challenge yourself to hear the whole message.  Hear the fury and understand the words being said.

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” –James 1:19

Jay KnudsenJay Knudsen
Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao, Philippines
Mission Intern, Class 2013
Advance # 3021842


  1. I love this. I think it so true in so many situations! People jump to conclusions before hearing anyone out so many times, in so many different scenarios. Yet, instead of peaceably trying to gain a deeper understanding and broach disagreement in love, we attack. Now I have a Needtobreathe song stuck in my head. As per usual, this was great and I so agree.


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