Read the directions carefully

Rashional Thoughts artIt has happened more times than I care to admit and each time is just as embarrassing as the others. You may have done it a time or two yourself especially if you communicate via email and/or text messages on your smartphone.

And I know better, I really do, but I continue to do it — failing to read a document, an email, a text or how-to instructions carefully.

You know the drill. We know we should slow down and read all the words and make sure we understand what is being communicated before we respond or act, but for some reason we tend to skim the text and then take action.

The dreaded life lesson

And many of us can remember that particular exam given to us by that one teacher or professor determined to teach us a life lesson. He or she handed out the test papers and said, “It is important to read through all the questions first, then take the exam.” The top of the test paper also stated, “Read all questions before answering any of them.”

But what did we do? We answered the questions as we read them because we thought it would take less time. We didn’t want to read through all of them and then come back to the first one to start answering them.

Of course, the disappointment hit hard when we reached the last question and realized why one or two students got up fairly quickly and turned in their exams. The final question wasn’t a question at all. It stated, “Do not answer any of the above questions. Sign your name here, turn it in now and you will receive an A. All others will fail this test.”

Ouch — if only we had followed the instructions.

Repeating the same mistakes

And yet still today, I find myself failing to read carefully through correspondence and other forms of communication.

I’m not sure if it is because my full-time work requires such careful reading, editing and fact checking that I get a little slack when it comes to other content or if it is merely a result of going in too many directions, but it happens more than it should.

When others do it to me

The one good thing about realizing what I’m doing is that I am reminded to be kind and gracious to others when it happens to me. And it does happen — often.

I might send an email or text asking three questions and the reply comes back with only one question answered. Or I might provide an outline for what all needs to be in a story and 75 percent of what I noted is written but the other 25 percent is overlooked.

It happens at work, at home, at church, in the neighborhood, at school and anywhere else we interact with people.

The deadline was clearly marked in the notice but somehow we didn’t see it. The change of plans was tucked inside the other three paragraphs of information but we stuck with the original schedule because we missed that note.

Take the challenge

If you are still with me and are truly reading through the column rather than skimming it, then I would encourage you to take the challenge I’m giving myself — slow down and read carefully. I believe we could save a lot of time, missteps and apologies by doing it right the first time.

I also wonder how much of the habit of not slowing down to read carefully could spill over into our biblical studies. How many times do we skim the Scriptures rather than carefully and thoroughly read every word? What are we missing if that is the case? Could God be blatantly showing Himself to us in a life-changing way that we are sadly missing because we’ve chosen to skim rather than absorb?

—Jennifer Davis Rash

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