Today’s post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog contained this quote – “I can explain it to you, but I can’t comprehend it for you.” (Edward Koch)
There is a tendency to immediately substitute the word “understand” for the word “comprehend” in that sentence, but that isn’t really what the sentence is saying. It is different to comprehend something that just to understand it.
One way that the Webster’s Dictionary defines “comprehend” is –
1: to grasp the nature, significance, or meaning of
In fact, even most dictionaries use the word understand within the definition of comprehend. Koch’s quote actually is right on as to the personal nature of comprehension. One can understand something at an intellectual level without really comprehending it, just as one can comprehend something without having to understanding it.
Understanding is a rather emotionless term that points at how things fit into our minds and memories – what category will this be filed under in my mind and how might this knowledge be used and applied in the future?
Comprehending, on the other hand, I think, leads to changes in how one perceives and reacts to the world around them. It is a very personal thing, involving how you grasp or perceive the things that you encounter. One does not so much understand love as to comprehend it for themselves. The same is true of prejudice or hate. You would be hard pressed to understand what causes them in you, but you can comprehend them as being there.
Ones faith is another thing that cannot really be understood, but which is comprehensible. How do you understand or explain your belief in a God who cannot be seen or heard, but whom you comprehend is always there with you? It’s a personal thing.
So, take a moment during the day to comprehend God. Don’t try to understand God, you really can’t; however, you can grasp the nature, significance and meaning of God in your life – you can comprehend. For me, that’s enough. I will not worry about understanding God, so long as I comprehend Him in my life.
How about you? Do you comprehend?
Sorry, I can’t help you with that. It’s a personal thing.