Understanding (quotes)


What is understanding ?


Understanding is about perceiving the intended meaning of something


Understanding is about perceiving the significance of something


Understanding is about tolerance and empathy


Seek to understand


Understanding is what life is all about

  • You are not the child of the people you call mother and father, but their fellow-adventurer on a bright journey to understand the things that are. Richard Bach
  • Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand. Neil Armstrong
  • God’s purpose for man is to acquire a seeing eye and an understanding heart. Rumi
  • True greatness consists in the use of a powerful understanding to enlighten oneself and others. Voltaire

Seek to understand life

  • You cannot fully understand your own life without knowing and thinking beyond your life, your own neighborhood, and even your own nation. Johnnetta Cole
  • Life is an unfoldment, and the further we travel the more truth we can comprehend. To understand the things that are at our door is the best preparation for understanding those that lie beyond. Hypatia
  • Life is a bliss only if you carefully understand it. Santosh Kalwar
  • Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Marie Curie
  • The special virtue of freedom is not that it makes you richer and more powerful but that it gives you more time to understand what it means to be alive.  Adam Gopnik
  • The endeavor to understand is the first and only basis of virtue. Baruch Spinoza

Seek to understand yourself …

  • When you try to understand everything, you will not understand anything. The best way is to understand yourself, and then you will understand everything. Shunru Suzuki
  • Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves. Carl Jung
  • Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves. Henry David Thoreau
  • You will be your best self when you take time to understand what you really need, feel and want. Deborah Day
  • You can’t be yourself if you don’t know, understand, and accept yourself first.
  • People who do not understand themselves have a craving for understanding. Wilhelm Stekel
  • If you begin to understand what you are without trying to change it, then what you are undergoes a transformation. Jiddu Krishnamurti
  • Until we can understand the assumptions in which we are drenched, we cannot know ourselves. Adrienne Rich
  • Without self-knowledge, without understanding the working and functions of his machine, man cannot be free, he cannot govern himself and he will always remain a slave. George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff
  • Self-knowledge

… for the more you understand yourself, the more you will understand the world

  • I want, by understanding myself, to understand others. I want to be all that I am capable of becoming. Katherine Mansfield
  • When you understand and are comfortable with yourself, it becomes easier to open yourself to the ideas of others. Stephen Covey
  • When a man begins to understand himself he begins to live. When he begins to live he begins to understand his fellow men. Norvin Mcgranahan
  • If you don’t understand yourself you don’t understand anybody else. Nikki Giovanni
  • Our greatest instrument for understanding the world—introspection . . . . The best way of knowing the inwardness of our neighbor is to know ourselves.  Walter Lippmann
  • The more you understand yourself, the more you will understand the world. Paulo Coelho

Seek to understand your feelings

  • Feelings are one of the most important parts of our life experience, and how we learn to understand, handle and guide them is a huge factor in determining how joyful and fulfilling our lives can become.  Amanda Harvey
  • A clear understanding of a negative emotion dismisses it. Vernon Howard
  • Sometimes it is not necessary to understand, analyze, label and categorize our feelings, it is only necessary to allow ourselves to feel them. Once they have been felt, they can be let go. Amanda Harvey
  • Emotions

Seek to understand your fears

  • What is needed, rather than running away or controlling or suppressing or any other resistance, is understanding fear – that means, watch it, learn about it, come directly into contact with it. We are to learn about fear, not how to escape from it. Jiddu Krishnamurti
  • Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Marie Curie
  • What the mind doesn’t understand, it worships or fears. Alice Walker
  • Fear

Seek to understand others…

  • Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be understood, as to understand. Saint Francis of Assisi
  • Listen first to understand, then speak to be understood. Stephen Covey
  • Seek first to understand. Be more interested in understanding others and less in having other people understand you. Stephen Covey
  • Having someone who understands is a great blessing for ourselves. Being someone who understands is a great blessing to others. Janette Oke
  • Seek first to understand. Essentially this strategy implies that you become more interested in understanding others and less interested in having other people understand you. Richard Carlson
  • …treat people with understanding when you can, and fake it when you can’t until you do understand. Kim Harrison
  • I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, nor to hate them, but to understand them. Baruch (Benedict de) Spinoza
  • To understand the heart and mind of a person, look not at what he has already achieved, but at what he aspires to. Kahlil Gibran
  • Until we know what motivates the hearts and minds of men we can understand nothing outside ourselves, nor will we ever reach fulfillment as that greatest miracle of all, the human being. Marya Mannes
  • Tis better to understand, than to be understood. Francis of Assisi
  • To understand and be understood, those are among life’s greatest gifts, and every interaction is an opportunity to exchange them. Maria Popova
  • I don’t have to agree with everything you say, but I should attempt at least to understand it, for the opposite of mutual understanding is, quite simply, war. Ken Wilber
  • Understanding is a two-way street. Eleanor Roosevelt
  • It is well to give when asked but it is better to give unasked, through understanding. Kahlil Gibran
  • Seek first to understand, then be understood

… even if that means not agreeing with them

  • A good listener tries to understand what the other person is saying. In the end he may disagree sharply, but because he disagrees, he wants to know exactly what it is he is disagreeing with. Kenneth A. Wells

Seek to understand life

  • You do not understand even life. How can you understand death? Confucius

Seek to understand the world and universe

  • If you really want to change the world, you must first understand it adequately, or all you will do is reproduce in larger numbers your own ignorance. Ken Wilber
  • Keep in mind that every single generation before us has worked under the assumption that they possessed all the major tools for understanding the universe, and they were all wrong, without exception. David Eagleman
  • The universe

The rewards of understanding


Understanding is a precious and potent force

  • Life is the first gift, love is the second, and understanding the third. Marge Piercy
  • Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery. K. Rowling
  • Until we know what motivates the hearts and minds of men we can understand nothing outside ourselves, nor will we ever reach fulfillment as that greatest miracle of all, the human being. Marya Mannes
  • The world only goes round by misunderstanding. Charles Baudelaire
  • We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the Universe. That makes us something very special. Stephen Hawking
  • No law or ordinance is mightier than understanding. Plato  
  • Jealousy is the lock that closes your heart, understanding is the key that opens it. Ken Petti
  • You don’t need strength to let go of something. What you really need is understanding. Guy Finley
  • A single moment of understanding can flood a whole life with meaning.
  • The crown of life is neither happiness nor annihilation; it is understanding. Winifred Holtby
  • What we do not understand, we cannot control. Charles Reich

Understanding illuminates

  • The best candle is understanding. Welsh Proverb
  • We shall light a candle of understanding in our hearts which shall not be put out. Jewish Proverb

Understanding reveals truth

  • All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them. Galileo Galilei
  • Truth

Understanding reduces worry and suffering

  • Anything that makes it easier to understand, makes it a little easier to bear. Rosie Thomas
  • The most important thing is that we need to be understood. We need someone to be able to listen to us and to understand us. Then we will suffer less. Thich Nhat Hanh
  • A matter that becomes clear ceases to concern us. Friedrich Nietzsche
  • WorrySuffering

Understanding leads to peace

  • Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding. Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • I do not want the peace which passeth understanding, I want the understanding which bringeth peace. Helen Keller
  • If we are to live together in peace, we must come to know each other better. Lyndon Johnson
  • I pray for a more friendly, more caring, and more understanding human family on this planet. To all who dislike suffering, who cherish lasting happiness, this is my heartfelt appeal. The Dalai Lama
  • Furious activity is no substitute for understanding. H Williams
  • Inner peace

Understanding leads to joy and happiness

  • The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding. Leonardo da Vinci
  • Joy in looking and comprehending is nature’s most beautiful gift.  Albert Einstein
  • The brain is like a muscle. When it is in use we feel very good. Understanding is joyous. Carl Sagan
  • … the use of our intelligence quite properly gives us pleasure. In this respect the brain is like a muscle. When we think well, we feel good. Understanding is a kind of ecstasy. Carl Sagan
  • My heart is singing for joy this morning! A miracle has happened! The light of understanding has shone upon my little pupil’s mind, and behold, all things are changed! Anne Sullivan
  • Only the development of compassion and understanding for others can bring us the tranquility and happiness we all seek. The Dalai Lama
  • To know someone here or there with whom you can feel there is understanding in spite of distances or thoughts expressed — that can make life a garden. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • JoyHappiness

Understanding helps solve problems and make decisions

  • If we can really understand the problem, the answer will come out of it, because the answer is not separate from the problem. Jiddu Krishnamurti
  • We shall find the answer when we examine the problem, the problem is never apart from the answer, the problem IS the answer, understanding the problem dissolves the problem. Bruce Lee
  • The only difference between a problem and a solution is that people understand the solution.  Dorothea Brande
  • Confidence is what you have before you understand the problem. Woody Allen
  • The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter. Malcolm Gladwell
  • Understanding can overcome any situation, however mysterious or insurmountable it may appear to be. Norman Vincent Peale
  • Problem solvingDecision making

Understanding brings freedom

  • The highest activity a human being can attain is learning for understanding, because to understand is to be free. Baruch (Benedict de) Spinoza
  • We are slaves to whatever we don’t understand. Vernon Howard
  • Without self-knowledge, without understanding the working and functions of his machine, man cannot be free, he cannot govern himself and he will always remain a slave. George Ivanovitch Gurdjieff
  • Freedom

Understanding increases your capacity to see and hear

  • Everyone hears only what he understands. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend. Henri L Bergson

Understanding opens communication and trust

  • In order to have influence with other people, they must first feel that you understand them. And once they feel understood, they are open to hearing your ideas, your counsel, and your point of view. Stephen Covey
  • When we listen with the intent to understand others, rather than with intent to reply, we begin true communication and relationship building. Opportunities to then speak openly and to be understood come much more naturally and easily.  Stephen Covey
  • The real beginning of influence comes as others sense you are being influenced by them – when they feel understood by you – that you have listened deeply and sincerely, and that you are open. Stephen Covey
  • If you really seek to understand, without hypocrisy and without guile, there will be times when you will be literally stunned with the pure knowledge and understanding that will flow to you from another human being. Sephen R. Covey
  • Where you are understood, you are at home. Understanding nourishes belonging. When you really feel understood, you feel free to release yourself into the trust and shelter of the other person’s soul. John O’Donohue
  • Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.  Rollo May
  • Seeking first to understand before being understood isn’t about who’s right or wrong; it is a philosophy of effective communication. When you practice this method, you’ll notice that the people you communicate with will feel listened to, heard, and understood. This will translate into better, more loving relationships. Richard Carlson
  • TrustCommunication

Understanding leads to love

  • And without understanding, could each properly love the other? Anita Brookner
  • We really have to understand the person we want to love. If our love is only a will to possess, it is not love. If we only think of ourselves, if we know only our own needs and ignore the needs of the other person, we cannot love. Thich Nhat Hanh
  • If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change. Thich Nhat Hahn
  • We can sometimes love what we do not understand, but it is impossible completely to understand what we do not love. Anna Jameson
  • Understanding leads to love
  • True love is born from understanding. Gautama Buddha
  • I think it’s impossible to really understand somebody, what they want, what they believe, and not love them the way they love themselves. Orson Scott Card
  • Try to understand men. If you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and almost always leads to love. John Steinbeck
  • The more deeply you understand other people, the more you will appreciate them, the more reverent you will feel about them. To touch the soul of another human being is to walk on holy ground. Stephen Covey
  • Love

Understanding increases intimacy and connection

  • If someone listens, or stretches out a hand, or whispers a word of encouragement, or attempts to understand a lonely person, extraordinary things begin to happen. Loretta Girzartis
  • One day, may we all meet together in the light of understanding. Malcolm X
  • There’s nothing more intimate in life than simply being understood. And understanding someone else. Brad Meltzer
  • IntimacyConnection

Understanding heals and affirms

  • If someone listens, or stretches out a hand, or whispers a word of encouragement, or attempts to understand a lonely person, extraordinary things begin to happen. Loretta Girzartis
  • You can’t give people pride, but you can provide the kind of understanding that makes people look to their inner strengths and find their own sense of pride. Charleszetta Waddles
  • HealingAffirmation

Understanding destroys hate and leads to forgiveness

  • Before you hate something you should try to understand it. Martha Grimes
  • Folks never understand the folks they hate. James Russell Lowell
  • The motto should not be: Forgive one another; rather, Understand one another. Emma Goldman
  • To understand everything is to forgive everything. Buddha
  • The more a man knows, the more he forgives. Confucius
  • To understand is to forgive, even oneself. Alexander Chase
  • I can always forgive where I understand. Jude Morgan
  • If men could only know each other, they would neither idolize nor hate. Elbert Hubbard
  • Man is always inclined to be intolerant towards the thing, or person, he hasn’t taken the time adequately to understand…  Robert R. Brown
  • HateForgiveness

Understanding opens possibility

  • The limit of your present understanding is not the limit of your possibilities. Guy Finely
  • Possibility

Understanding brings about a temporary cessation in thought

  • Understanding is another name for Consciousness. It is the particular name Consciousness gives itself when it experiences itself at the end of a thought. Rupert Spira
  • Understanding is revealed by thought, not explained by it. In fact, it is the ending of thought that reveals Understanding. Rupert Spira
  • We presume that it was the fulfilment of the desire that produced the Happiness and the answering of the question that brought about the Understanding. Rupert Spira
  • However, it is the end of the desire, not its fulfilment, which reveals the underlying, ever-present Happiness. And it is the dissolution of the question rather than its answer that reveals the Understanding that lies behind the mind’s activity. Rupert Spira

The price of misunderstanding


Misunderstanding, on the other hand, can do much harm

  • The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding. Albert Camus
  • Misunderstandings and neglect occasion more mischief in the world than even malice and wickedness. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  • ‘Most of the trouble in life comes from misunderstanding, I think,’ said Anne. M. Montgomery
  • Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Unfortunately, opportunities for misunderstanding abound

  • It’s dreadful what little things lead people to misunderstand each other. M. Montgomery
  • We’re all islands shouting lies to each other across seas of misunderstanding. Rudyard Kipling
  • As soon as we start putting our thoughts into words and sentences everything gets distorted, language is just no damn good—I use it because I have to, but I don’t put any trust in it. We never understand each other. Marcel Duchamp
  • We can rarely see things from the point of view of another person because we look at the facts through the screen of an impression or an interest which distorts our view; and then there are accusations, quarrels and misunderstanding.  Barry Long
  • Most quarrels amplify a misunderstanding. Andre Gide
  • The human understanding is like a false mirror, which, receiving rays irregularly, distorts and discolors the nature of things by mingling its own nature with it. Francis Bacon, Sr.
  • Logic: The art of thinking and reasoning in strict accordance with the limitations and incapacities of the human misunderstanding. Ambrose Bierce

Understand by learning and knowing


Understand by acquiring knowledge…

  • Whenever we’re afraid, it’s because we don’t know enough. If we understood enough, we would never be afraid. Earl Nightingale
  • All our knowledge begins with the senses, proceeds then to the understanding, and ends with reason. There is nothing higher than reason. Immanuel Kant
  • The improvement of understanding is for two ends: first, our own increase of knowledge; secondly, to enable us to deliver that knowledge to others. John Locke
  • The two operations of our understanding, intuition and deduction, on which alone we have said we must rely in the acquisition of knowledge. René Descartes
  • The beginning of knowledge is the discovery of something we do not understand. Frank Herbert
  • Knowledge

… but realise that knowing does not always equate to understanding

  • There is a great difference between knowing and understanding: you can know a lot about something and not really understand it. Charles F. Kettering
  • Any fool can know. The point is to understand. Albert Einstein
  • He who repeats what he does not understand is no better than an ass that is loaded with books. Kahlil Gibran
  • I don’t understand a thing about this world: about people, and why they do the things they do. The more I find out, the more I uncover, the more I know, the less I understand. Craig Silvey
  • We understand more than we know. Margaret Atwood

In fact, there are times when knowledge can hamper understanding

  • Guarding knowledge is not a good way to understand. Understanding means to throw away your knowledge. Thich Nhat Hanh
  • The more you know, the less you understand. Proverb
  • We have to continue to learn. We have to be open. And we have to be ready to release our knowledge in order to come to a higher understanding of reality. Thich Nhat Hanh

Understand by learning…

  • That is what learning is. You suddenly understand something you’ve understood all your life, but in a new way. Doris Lessing
  • Learning is not the accumulation of knowledge, but rather, one thing only: understanding. Donna Jo Napoli
  • Who is wise? He who learns from all men. From all my teachers have I gotten understanding. Ben Zoma
  • You don’t understand anything until you learn it more than one way. Marvin Minsky
  • There’s so much to learn! And just when we think, “I’ve got it. I really understand what’s going on,” we’re shown a whole new stage set on which to play. Richard Bach
  • Learning

… but realise that learning too does not always equate to understanding

  • University can teach you skill and give you opportunity, but it can’t teach you sense, nor give you understanding. Sense and understanding are produced within one’s soul. JoyBell C.
  • Much learning does not teach understanding. Heraclitus of Ephesus

Understand many things by understanding one thing well

  • If one is master of one thing and understands one thing well, one has at the same time, insight into and understanding of many things. Vincent van Gogh
  • To understand one thing well is better than understanding many things by halves.  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Understand by observing and contemplating


Understand by observing and paying attention

  • Wisdom and understanding can only become the possession of individual men by travelling the old road of observation, attention, perseverance, and industry. Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • AttentionAwareness

Understand by looking below the surface of things

  • Things are not always what they seem; the first appearance deceives many; the intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden… Phaedrus
  • Do not hover always on the surface of things, nor take up suddenly with mere appearances; but penetrate into the depth of matters, as far as your time and circumstances allow, especially in those things which relate to your profession. Isaac Watts

Understand by looking deep into nature

  • He who understands nature walks close with God. Edgar Cayce
  • Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. Albert Einstein
  • Keep your love of nature, for that is the true way to understand art more and more. Vincent van Gogh
  • Man masters nature not by force but by understanding. Jacob Brownowski
  • Nature

Understand through seeing like a child

  • Don’t you understand that we need to be childish in order to understand? Only a child sees things with perfect clarity, because it hasn’t developed all those filters which prevent us from seeing things that we don’t expect to see. Douglas Adams

Understand by living


Understand by living and doing for true understanding is not intellectual

  • Realise that to make a principle part of your life, you must pay the price by actually living it, rather than merely understanding it intellectually. Stephen Covey
  • I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand. Chinese Proverb
  • We have to understand that the world can only be grasped by action, not by contemplation. The hand is more important than the eye… The hand is the cutting edge of the mind. Jacob Bronowski
  • How many things have to happen to you before something occurs to you? Robert Frost

Understand through times of adversity

  • Difficult times have helped me to understand better than before how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way and that so many things that one goes worrying about are of no importance whatsoever. Isak Dinesen
  • The truth is that in order for you to experience true happiness in your life, you must experience sadness. It’s required. Without sadness, we really can’t even understand what happiness is. Karl Moore
  • Adversity

Understand through mistakes and failure

  • Use missteps as stepping stones to deeper understanding and greater achievement. Susan Taylor
  • Once we realize that imperfect understanding is the human condition there is no shame in being wrong, only in failing to correct our mistakes. George Soros
  • I’ve come to believe that all my past failure and frustration were actually laying the foundation for the understandings that have created the new level of living I now enjoy. Tony Robbins
  • MistakesFailure

Understand by contemplating the past…

  • He who doesn’t understand history is doomed to repeat it. Pittacus Lore
  • When I want to understand what is happening today or try to decide what will happen tomorrow, I look back. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
  • If you want to understand today, you have to search yesterday. Pearl S. Buck
  • The past is like a great stone that lies on the bed of a river, hidden from view but shaping the currents of the water as it flows by. You cannot read the currents in the river of your own life, and navigate them safely, if you do not understand what causes them. You must know your past, for it will shape your future. Judson Roberts
  • …everything has a past. Everything – a person, an object, a word, everything. If you don’t know the past, you can’t understand the present and plan properly for the future. Chaim Potok
  • Unless we remember we cannot understand. M. Forster
  • To understand a man, you must know his memories. The same is true of a nation. Anthony Quayle
  • The past

… for sometimes life can best be understood backwards

  • Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. Soren Kierkegaard
  • Sometimes you can only understand why things happen when you see them in the rearview mirror. Ron Hall
  • That’s what heaven is. You get to make sense of your yesterdays. Mitch Albom

Understand by living in the present moment

  • By living deeply in the present moment, we can understand the past better and we can prepare for a better future. Thich Nhat Hanh
  • When we are mindful, deeply in touch with the present moment, our understanding of what is going on deepens, and we begin to be filled with acceptance, joy, peace and love. Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Live in the presentNow is a priceless gift

Understand by teaching and explaining


Understand by learning to explain it simply

  • In general, I feel if you can’t say it clearly you don’t understand it yourself. John Rogers Searle
  • There’s nothing that can help you understand your beliefs more than trying to explain them to an inquisitive child. Frank A. Clark
  • If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough. Albert Einstein
  • You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.  Albert Einstein

Understand by teaching


Understand by simplifying it…

  • Simplifying something aids our understanding of it
  • Complexity is, generally speaking, an illusion of conscious desire. All things exist in as simple a form as necessity dictates. When a thing is labeled ‘complex,’ that’s just a roundabout way of saying you’re not observant enough to understand it.   Lee Martinez
  • Simplicity before understanding is simplistic; simplicity after understanding is simple. Edward De Bono
  • Simplicity

… although realise that the truly simple things are sometimes hardest to understand

  • It’s the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary; only wise men are able to understand them. Paulo Coelho
  • It always takes awfully long time to understand unbelievably simple things. Joe Chung

Understand through intuition and feeling

  • The highest endeavor of the mind, and the highest virtue, it to understand things by intuition. Baruch Spinoza
  • I began to realize that an intuitive understanding and consciousness was more significant than abstract thinking and intellectual logical analysis. Steve Jobs
  • We should not pretend to understand the world only by the intellect; we apprehend it just as much by feeling. Therefore, the judgment of the intellect is, at best, only the half of truth, and must, if it be honest, also come to an understanding of its inadequacy.  Carl Jung
  • IntuitionEmotions

Understand by reading and writing

  • You will learn most things by looking, but reading gives understanding. Reading will make you free. Paul Rand
  • The use of imaginative fiction is to deepen your understanding of your world, and your fellow men, and your own feelings, and your destiny. Ursula K. Le Guin
  • No man understands a deep book until he has seen and lived at least part of its contents. Ezra Pound
  • We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel… is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become. Ursula K. Le Guin
  • I write to understand as much as to be understood. Elie Wiesel
  • Don’t write merely to be understood. Write so that you cannot possibly be misunderstood. Robert Louis Stevenson
  • ReadingWriting

Understand through art and science


Understand through art

  • People discuss my art and pretend to understand as if it were necessary to understand, when it’s simply necessary to love. Claude Monet
  • Discipline in art is a fundamental struggle to understand oneself, as much as to understand what one is drawing. Henry Moore
  • The artist does not tinker with the universe, he recreates it out of his own experience and understanding of life. Henry Mille
  • Keep your love of nature, for that is the true way to understand art more and more. Vincent van Gogh
  • Poetry, plays, novels, music, they are the cry of the human spirit trying to understand itself and make sense of our world. Laura Malone Elliott
  • The moment you think you understand a great work of art, it’s dead for you. Oscar Wilde
  • Art

Understand through science

  • Science is the process that takes us from confusion to understanding… Brian Greene
  • Science has a simple faith, which transcends utility. It is the faith that it is the privilege of man to learn to understand, and that this is his mission. Vannevar Bush
  • Science

Understand through religion and spirituality


Many would say that God, in particular, is beyond understanding

  • It may be a species of impudence to think that the way you understand God is the way God is. Joseph Campbell
  • If you understood him, it would not be God. Augustine of Hippo
  • It is easy to understand God as long as you don’t try to explain him. Joseph Joubert
  • God is not what you imagine or what you think you understand. If you understand you have failed.  Saint Augustine
  • Don’t try to understand! It’s enough if you do not misunderstand. Nisargadatta Maharaj
  • God

… at least by the mind that is

  • If you use your mind to study reality, you will understand neither reality nor the mind. If you study reality without using your mind, you will understand both. Bodhidharma
  • The mind may accept or deny that you are awareness, but either way it can’t really understand. It cannot comprehend. Thought cannot comprehend what is beyond thought. Adyashanti

Only the soul can really understand…

  • The soul understands what the mind cannot conceive. Neale Donald Walsch
  • It isn’t until you come to a spiritual understanding of who you are – not necessarily a religious feeling, but deep down, the spirit within – that you can begin to take control. Oprah Winfrey

… and this understanding can be achieved through stillness and being

  • A mature mind is one who understands the impossibility of knowing the ultimate, and with this understanding there is a new dimension: the dimension of being. Osho
  • If there were a little more silence, if we all kept quiet…maybe we could understand something. Federico Fellini
  • To understand the immeasurable, the mind must be extraordinarily quiet, still. Jiddu Krishnamurti
  • Let there be a silent understanding and no more. Away with all thinking and explaining. Huang Po
  • StillnessBeing

Faith requires you to believe in order to understand

  • Faith is a devout belief in what one does not understand. Marie Anne de Vichy-Chamron
  • That’s the thing about faith. If you don’t have it you can’t understand it. And if you do, no explanation is necessary. Kira Nerys
  • Seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand. Saint Augustine
  • Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time. Oswald Chambers
  • What is wrong with the admission that something exists beyond our understanding? The day science substantiates God in a lab is the day people stop needing faith! Dan Brown
  • If you can admit that you haven’t yet understood everything, faith can fill the emptiness in heart to confront the hesitation. Toba Beta
  • Faith

Yet more ways to understand

  • If you want to truly understand something, try to change it. Kurt Lewin
  • Whoever wants to understand much must play much. Gottfried Benn
  • At its best, travel should challenge our preconceptions and most cherished views, cause us to rethink our assumptions, shake us a bit, make us broader minded and more understanding. Arthur Frommer

How to understand others


Understand others through love

  • When you were in love, you were capable of learning everything and of knowing things you had never dared even to think, because love was the key to understanding all of the mysteries. Paulo Coelho
  • All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love. Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoy
  • Love takes no sides but understands them all. Vanna Bonta
  • Love has been called the most effective motivational force in all the world. When love is at work in us, it is remarkable how giving and forgiving, understanding and tolerant we can be. Charles R. Swindoll
  • Love is the key to understanding all mysteries. Paulo Coelho
  • Love allows understanding to dawn, and understanding is precious. Where you are understood, you are at home. Understanding nourishes belonging. When you really feel understood, you feel free to release yourself into the trust and shelter of the other person’s soul. John O’Donohue
  • Love

Understand others through compassion…

  • No person was every rightly understood until they had been first regarded with a certain feeling, not of tolerance, but of sympathy. Thomas Carlyle
  • Each aspect within us needs understanding and compassion. If we are unwilling to give it to ourselves how can we expect the world to give it to us? As we are, so is the universe. Debbie Ford
  • I call him religious who understands the suffering of others. Mahatma Gandhi
  • How much can we ever know about the love and pain in another heart? How much can we hope to understand those who have suffered deeper anguish, greater deprivation, and more crushing disappointments than we ourselves have known? Orhan Pamuk
  • Compassion

… through an understanding born from your own suffering

  • Suffering and joy teach us, if we allow them, how to make the leap of empathy, which transports us into the soul and heart of another person. Fritz William
  • To embrace suffering culminates in greater empathy, the capacity to feel what it is like for the other to suffer, which is the ground for unsentimental compassion and love. Stephen Batchelor
  • Those who have suffered understand suffering and therefore extend their hand.  Patti Smith
  • Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding. Kahlil Gibran
  • The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen. Elizabeth Kubler- Ross
  • SufferingPain

Understand others through empathy

  • You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view. Harper Lee
  • Practice empathy. The more successful you are at achieving understanding, concern, and consideration of the other person’s perspective, the more likely you are to forgive him or her.  Sonja Lyubomirsky
  • Three-fourths of the miseries and misunderstandings in the world would disappear if we step into the shoes of our adversaries and understand their standpoint. Gandhi
  • I have wanted you to see out of my eyes so many times. Elizabeth Berg
  • The best way I can get understanding from another person is to give this person the understanding, too. If I want them to hear my needs and feelings, I first need to empathize. Marshall Rosenberg
  • Empathy

Understand others through listening

  • When we talk about understanding, surely it takes place only when the mind listens completely — the mind being your heart, your nerves, your ears- when you give your whole attention to it. Jiddu Krishnamurti
  • Empathic listening gets you inside another person’s frame of reference. You look out through it, you see the world the way he or she sees it, and you understand how he or she feels. This does not necessarily mean you agree; it’s that you fully, deeply, understand that person emotionally as well as intellectually. You temporarily let go of your perspective to understand his or her perspective. Stephen Covey
  • The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them. Ralph G. Nichols
  • Listening

Choose to understand others rather than to judge or blame them

  • In every encounter I can choose to exhibit understanding and empathy, or I can choose to be critical and judgmental. The first choice leads to meaningful relationships; the second leads to a life of empty assumptions and frustration. Kevin Hall
  • If you would judge, understand. Seneca
  • Judging is preventing us from understanding a new truth. Free yourself from the rules of old judgments and create the space for new understanding. Steve Maraboli
  • To judge another is to believe that we understand the position of another soul. Who can really know the consciousness of another soul? Eliott James
  • Nothing is easier than to denounce the evil doer; Nothing more difficult than understanding him. Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • Instead of condemning people, try to understand them. Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain– and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving. Lawrence G. Lovasik
  • You do not set the standard. You have not walked in my footsteps, danced in my shoes, or lived in my world. Do not judge me, point your fingers at me, or become experts on my life. Instead, celebrate with me in times of joy and cry with me in times of pain. Only then will we begin to understand each other. Kate Baker
  • Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change. Thich Nhat Hanh  
  • If one does not understand a person, one tends to regard him as a fool.  Carl Jung
  • But then every man is ludicrous if you look at him from outside, without taking into account what’s going on in his heart and mind. Aldous Huxley
  • Let go of the need to judgeBlaming

Being understood


Being understood by others is a wonderful gift

  • Love allows understanding to dawn, and understanding is precious. Where you are understood, you are at home. Understanding nourishes belonging. When you really feel understood, you feel free to release yourself into the trust and shelter of the other person’s soul. John O’Donohue
  • Sometimes it is only a True Friend who knows what we mean when we try to speak. Somebody who has spent a lot of time with us, and listens carefully to what we are trying to say, and tries to understand. Cressida Cowell
  • There’s nothing more intimate in life than simply being understood. And understanding someone else. Brad Meltzer
  • Perhaps one did not want to be loved so much as to be understood. George Orwell
  • In the end there doesn’t have to be anyone who understands you. There just has to be someone who wants to. Robert Brault

However, realise that often in your life you will be misunderstood – and that is ok too

  • Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood. Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • To be understood is to prostitute oneself. Fernando Pessoa
  • As soon as we start putting our thoughts into words and sentences everything gets distorted, language is just no damn good—I use it because I have to, but I don’t put any trust in it. We never understand each other. Marcel Duchamp
  • No one could possibly understand my purest feelings but I couldn’t care less; My deepest yearnings are nobody’s goddamn business anyway. Novala Takemoto
  • Not being understood may be taken as a sign that there is much in one to understand. Alain de Botton
  • So long as you live and work, you will be misunderstood; to that you must resign yourself once and for all. Be silent! Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

It’s very difficult to get someone to understand something when he has an interest in not understanding it

  • At a certain level of learning and understanding, right or wrong ain’t the issue, but different interest. Toba Beta
  • Where misunderstanding serves others as an advantage, one is helpless to make oneself understood. Lionel Trilling
  • It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it! Upton Sinclair

Let go of the need to understand everything


Not everything in the world or life can be understood or explained in words

  • I still understand a few words in life, but I no longer think they make a sentence. Jean Rostand
  • The world is incomprehensible. We won’t ever understand it; we won’t ever unravel its secrets. Thus we must treat the world as it is: a sheer mystery. Carlos Castaneda
  • The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible. Albert Einstein
  • It is the duty of the human understanding to understand that there are things which it cannot understand, and what those things are. Human understanding has vulgarly occupied itself with nothing but understanding, but if it would only take the trouble to understand itself at the same time it would simply have to posit the paradox. Soren Kierkegaard
  • If you understand everything, you must be misinformed. Japanese Proverb
  • I am only a man … who knows that he’ll never understand all that is around him. Carlos Castaneda
  • Those who understand only what can be explained understand very little. Marie von Ebner- Eschenbach
  • Words

Let go of the need to understand it or explain it all

  • Sometimes surrender means giving up trying to understand and becoming comfortable with not knowing. Eckhart Tolle
  • As I grow to understand life less and less, I learn to love it more and more. Jules Renard
  • It has taken me all my life to understand it is not necessary to understand everything. Rene Coty
  • All of us must cross the line between ignorance and insight many times before we truly understand. David B. Hawkins
  • Sell your cleverness and purchase bewilderment. Rumi
  • Don’t try to understand! It’s enough if you do not misunderstand. Nisargadatta Maharaj
  • Let go of the need to know and fully understand

Knowing what we don’t understand is wisdom and paradoxically allows us to see more clearly

  • We shall see but little way if we require to understand what we see. How few things can a man measure with the tape of his understanding! How many greater things might he be seeing in the meanwhile! Henry David Thoreau
  • The fact that you are willing to say, ‘I do not understand, and it is fine,’ is the greatest understanding you could exhibit. Wayne Dyer
  • To realize that you do not understand is a virtue; not to realize that you do not understand is a defect. Lao Tzu
  • Understanding it all requires not understanding it all.
  • Education: That which discloses to the wise and disguises from the foolish their lack of understanding. Ambrose Bierce
  • Understanding is the knowing of misunderstanding. Zivarnna Smithies
  • Wisdom

Understanding is a process that never truly ends


Understanding is a process …

  • The growth of understanding follows an ascending spiral rather than a straight line. Joanna Field
  • All of us must cross the line between ignorance and insight many times before we truly understand. David B. Hawkins

.. and true understanding is never final

  • Even as you grow wiser and wiser with age you must remind yourself that an understanding is never absolutely final. What’s currently right could easily be wrong later.  Thus, the most destructive illusion is a settled point of view.  Since life is continuous growth and movement, choosing a fixed point of view is essentially a declaration of death.  Marc and Angel Chernoff
  • Understanding is not absolutely final. What’s now right could be wrong later.  Toba Beta

Final thoughts


It is not necessary to understand something in order to argue about it

  • Sir, I have found you an argument; but I am not obliged to find you an understanding. Samuel Johnson
  • It is not necessary to understand things in order to argue about them. Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais
  • The less people know, the more they yell. Seth Godin

Understanding and age

  • In youth we learn; in age we understand. Marie von Ebner-Eschenbach
  • We don’t understand life any better at forty than at twenty, but by then we realize it and admit it. Jules Renard
  • By the time we began to understand enough about what the world to ask the right questions, our visit is over, and someone else is visiting, asking the same questions. K. LeVick

Sometimes mere understanding is not enough

  • Sometimes it’s not enough to know what things mean, sometimes you have to know what things don’t mean. Bob Dylan
  • Understanding is knowing what to do; wisdom is knowing what to do next; virtue is actually doing it. Tristan Gylberd

On a lighter note

  • There would be no society if living together depended upon understanding each other. Eric Hoffer
  • A lot of people are very critical of modern reproductive processes without understanding all the ins and outs.  Robert (Lord) Winston
  • A stupid man’s report of what a clever man says is never accurate because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand.  Bertrand Russell
  • Accountant: Someone who solves a problem you didn’t know you had in a way you don’t understand.
  • Anyone who isn’t confused really doesn’t understand the situation.  Edward R. Murrow]
  • The smaller the understanding of the situation, the more pretentious the form of expression. John Romano, M.D
  • Being in politics is like being a football coach; you have to be smart enough to understand the game and be dumb enough to think it’s important.  Eugene McCarthy
  • Better to understand a little than to misunderstand a lot.
  • Boys are beyond the range of anybody’s sure understanding at least when they are between the ages of 18 months and 90 years.  James Thurber
  • Cats have an infallible understanding of total concentration – and get between you and it. Arthur Bridges
  • Chaos Theory is a new theory invented by scientists panicked by the thought that the public were beginning to understand the old ones.  Mike Barfield
  • If you want to truly understand something, try to change it. Kurt Lewin
  • Confidence is what you have before you understand the problem.  Woody Allen
  • Confucius say optimist is a person who doesn’t understand the enormity of the problem.   Confucius
  • Fifty percent of people have a below-average understanding of statistics.
  • For a man to truly understand rejection he must first be ignored by a cat.
  • Grown-ups never understand anything by themselves and it is tiresome for children to be always and forever explaining things to them.  Antoine de Saint-Exupry
  • He enjoys that perfect peace – that peace beyond all understanding which comes at its maximum only to the man who has given up golf.  G. Wodehouse
  • How can you trust a man who can talk for five minutes and you can’t understand a sentence of it!  Lennox Lewis
  • I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word of what I am saying. Oscar Wilde
  • I can’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas; I’m frightened of old ones.  John Cage
  • I don’t mind what language an opera is sung in so long as it is a language I don’t understand.  Edward Appleton
  • I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant. Robert McCloskey
  • I never can understand how two men can write a book together; to me that’s like three people getting together to have a baby.
  • I sleep better naked…why can’t the flight attendant understand this?
  • I understand life isn’t fair but why couldn’t it just once be unfair in my favor?  Christy Murphy
  • I’m still not sure if I understand ambiguity.
  • If you are sure you understand everything that is going on, you are hopelessly confused. Walter F. Mondale
  • In mathematics you don’t understand things, you just get used to them.  John von Neumann
  • In Paris they simply stared when I spoke to them in French; I never did succeed in making those idiots understand their language.  Mark Twain
  • Interpreter: One who enables two persons of different languages to understand each other by repeating to each what it would have been to the interpreter’s advantage for the other to have said.
  • It is amazing how quickly the kids learn to drive a car yet are unable to understand the lawnmower, snowblower or vacuum cleaner.  Ben Bergor
  • It is hard to understand how a cemetery raised its burial costs and blamed it on the high cost of living.
  • It requires wisdom to understand wisdom: the music is nothing if the audience is deaf.  Walter Lippmann
  • Journalism — a profession whose business it is to explain to others what it personally does not understand. Lord Northcliffe
  • Just because I don’t care doesn’t mean I don’t understand.  Homer Simpson
  • Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand but the passages that bother me are those I do understand.  Mark Twain
  • Oh, I could spend my life having this conversation – look – please try to understand before one of us dies. John Cleese
  • Only someone who understands something absolutely can explain it so no one else can understand it.  Rudnicki’s Nobel Principle
  • Philosophers: People who talk about something they don’t understand, and make you think it’s your fault.
  • Politicians are wonderful people as long as they stay away from things they don’t understand such as working for a living.  J. O’Rourke
  • Proof that we don’t understand death is that we give dead people a pillow.  Jerry Seinfeld
  • Psychology: The science that tells you what you already know in words you can’t understand.
  • She doesn’t understand the concept of Roman numerals; she thought we just fought in world war eleven.  Joan Rivers
  • Technology is dominated by two types of people: Those who understand what they do not manage and those who manage what they do not understand.  Putt’s Law
  • The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.  Albert Einstein
  • The liberals can understand everything but people who don’t understand them.  Lenny Bruce
  • The minute you read something that you can’t understand you can almost be sure that it was drawn up by a lawyer.  Will Rogers
  • The more vital your research, the less people will understand it.
  • The relationship between the Welsh and English is based on trust and understanding. They don’t trust us and we don’t understand them.  Dudley Wood
  • They do a lot of talking but I’m not sure they actually understand each other.  Darren McCarty
  • To better understand why you need a personal computer let’s take a look at the pathetic mess you call your life.  Dave Barry
  • When I see a man of shallow understanding extravagantly clothed I feel sorry – for the clothes.   Josh Billings
  • Why is it that nobody understands me and everybody likes me?  Albert Einstein
  • You can’t be truly rude until you understand good manners. Rita Mae Brown
  • There’s nothing that can help you understand your beliefs more than trying to explain them to an inquisitive child. Frank A. Clark
  • You do not really understand something unless you can explain it to your grandmother.  Albert Einstein
  • A child of five could understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five. Groucho Marx

Understanding in relationships

  • To be happy with a man, you must understand him a lot and love him a little. To be happy with a woman, you must love her a lot and not try to understand her at all.
  • To be happy with a woman you must love her a lot and not try to understand her at all.  Helen Rowland
  • When two people decide to get a divorce, it isn’t a sign that they don’t understand one another but a sign that they have at last begun to.  Helen Rowland
  • They have come up with a perfect understanding; he won’t try to run her life and he won’t try to run his either.
  • There are 2 times when a man doesn’t understand a woman – before marriage and after marriage.
  • I want a man who’s kind and understanding; is that too much to ask of a millionaire?  Zsa Zsa Gabor
  • If God wanted women to understand men, football would never have been created.  Roger Simon
  • In the early years, you fight because you don’t understand each other. In the later years, you fight because you do. Joan Didion
  • Marriage teaches you loyalty, patience, understanding, perseverance and a lot of their things you wouldn’t need if you stayed single.
  • Men who don’t understand women fall into two groups – bachelors and husbands. Jacques Languirand
  • Most men know that women dream of having two men at the same time. But they don’t understand that in those fantasies one man is cleaning the house and the other one is cooking.
  • No man is truly married until he understands every word his wife is NOT saying.
  • There are three things I have loved but never understood. Art, music and women. Bernard Le Bovier Fontenelle
  • To understand one woman is not necessarily to understand any other woman.  John Stuart Mill
  • Trying to understand women is like trying to smell color 9.
  • What I really need is a woman who loves me for my money but doesn’t understand math.  Mike Birbiglia
  • Every wife should understand one thing: a dinner will taste better if she cooks it less frequently.