Rewriting Our Software

I've learned a lot about life from writing software. "Rendering" is a concept in software that describes how data is interpreted or "rendered" by a program. For example, you can tell a program your age, weight, sex, and other details about your life and it can calculate how much of an insurance risk you are. But in order to do this accurately, the program must not mistake your age for your weight. It must "render" your input accurately.

Here's another example. Suppose a program needs some date information. How you enter the date needs to be understood by the program. It does this through a renderer. The renderer uses a mask to interpret the date. If the mask is, "MM/DD/YYYY," then the renderer knows that you will enter the date in this format: "10/08/2007." If, however, you are a European, you may enter the date like so, "08/10/2007." The day and the month are reversed, but the renderer doesn't know that, so it thinks you are saying August 10, 2007, not, October 8, 2007!

What does all this have to do with life? Each one of us has a renderer in our head. We hear things according to our own ideas, judgments, and experience. This is especially true when listening to others. They may say, "You are a real friend," meaning that they look up to you and appreciate how loyal and kind you are. If, however, you have had bad experiences in other relationships, woke up on the wrong side of the bed, or are harboring unforgiveness in your heart, you might hear, "You are a real friend," with a spin of sarcasm, meaning, that they are upset and berating you. Our renderer can get us into a lot of trouble.

What are we to do? How can we get our renderer to interpret accurately what others say and mean? The first step is to admit that only the person giving us the data can provide an accurate rendering. In other words, we don't really know what people are saying. "To come to know other people, we must begin by admitting that we do not know them," says Mike Mason. To love others means giving up our prejudices, judgments, and preconceived ideas and really listen. Only then will we have an accurate renderer.