“The circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed”
“The parts of something written or spoken that immediately precede and follow a word or passage and clarify its meaning”
I'd like to start with the latter definition first, before moving onto the first. Here we are talking about context clues. You may not understand a word or a particular phrase or sentence. But taking into account what surrounds these unknowns, you can make an educated guess on what they might mean.
Now we return to the first definition of context: that which concerns circumstances. This is at the heart of what I want to say about context. Sometimes, it's very hard to fully understand certain circumstances. Each person will react to context in a different way. This is because any given circumstance affects an individual necessarily in a different way.
You can put two people through the same exact trial. Afterwards, you make an off hand remark. The words themselves are harmless, said in a neutral tone. One may well chuckle. Another may storm off and slam the door behind him or her. Was the context of the remark misunderstood? It may well not have been. It was just understood differently.
There are times I have found myself taking remarks completely out of context. Is this a failure of good communication on the speaker's part? Or is it my inability to understand the context of the remark from the speaker's perspective? I often don't think carefully through what other people say. It's not that I don't care. Actually, it's the opposite. I tend to over-analyze people's words so much that I lose sight of context.
It seems one area I really need to work on in life is better taking into account context. Sure, others probably should work on this, too. But I have the most effect on myself and the others around me through my own efforts. Especially when you have young children constantly around you, it's good to be the best example that you can.
Taking a brief moment to consider context before making a small judgment is important. But equally important is another problem I have. Sometimes I'll have no immediate reaction to something that's said or done that actually bothers me somehow. Then I spend too much time thinking about it until the original context is lost. What was said or happened gains a new context. I then happen to misremember the original situation. Pretty soon I find myself taking a lot of things out of context and I'm not quite sure what's happening at all.
In some ways, I'd rather have an immediate reaction and feel stupid in the moment. But instead I try to rationalize what I find to be irrational. I just go too far with it. Once a nagging moment is taken out of its original context, certain thoughts emerge. This is perhaps how certain imperfections of memory occur in people on a regular basis.
Perhaps, this habit of over-analyzing stems from the fact that I tend to be quite an introvert. Sometimes the only context that matters happens to be whatever my state of mind was at a given time. I live in my own context more than I probably should. I think a lot of people do. It's something I definitely need to work on.
If I'm going to over-analyze, I need to be sure to put a more constructive slant to it. I wouldn't consider myself a judgmental person. I'm actually forgiving to a fault. But when I become stressed, I can't forgive myself for suddenly being snappy. Apparently, other people can. So I have a definite lapse in understanding context that I need to work on. No one's perfect. I just need to better understand why my context lenses get so foggy.