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Romano Guardini on the Virtue of Understanding

The beginning of all understanding consists in this: that each one shall give to the other freedom to be what he is, and not regard him from the point of view of egotism, prescribing for him what he is to be according to one's own self-interest, but rather regarding him from the point of view of freedom, first saying, "Be what you are; and then, "Now I should like to know what you are, and why."

Without this attitude, true understanding is impossible. It presupposes that we give the other person the right to be himself, do not regard him as a piece of our own environment, but as a human being with his own original center, his own way of life, wishes and rights. Only then can we rightfully ask: "Why does he do that? What experiences has he had? What is the history behind his behavior? How are his various attitudes related to each other? Is the gruffness which he shows really violence or only a kind of shame which hides what is within?" And so on. Only then will the questions really find an answer, the answer that leads to understanding.