Do You Feel Misunderstood?
by John Coblentz
taken from the March 1998 newsletter of
Deeper Life Ministries
A number of years ago I found myself in that difficult situation of trying to
explain myself to a man who was convinced I had wronged him. I thought a simple
explanation would clear up the matter because I really did have his interests
at heart. But the more I explained, the less he seemed to believe me.
I still remember coming to an insight that has helped me in the years since
then: Sometimes we need to accept misunderstanding and just let it be, if there
is to be any forward progress in the relationship.
Why are there misunderstandings?
As we look at Biblical examples--Joseph, with his brothers; David, with Saul;
Jesus, with His disciples and with the Jewish leaders--we come to realize that
there can be a variety of factors contributing to misunderstandings.
So how do we avoid this deception?
- Sometimes we are misunderstood because people do not hear us accurately.
This is the most simple cause, and can generally be cleared up with further
explanation. One time Jesus' disciples, for example, thought He was scolding them
because they had not taken enough food. Actually, His comment,
"Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees," was a
warning to be on guard against thinking and believing like the Pharisees. With
further explanation, this misunderstanding was cleared up (Matthew 16:6-12).
- Sometimes we are misunderstood by people who have hidden motives that
cloud their ability to understand what we are doing or saying. Saul, for
example, could not understand that David was trying to honor him. He viewed David
as an enemy set on taking the kingdom because Saul's own heart was angry and
vengeful, and he could not trust that David's was otherwise. When Saul observed
that men (some of his own relatives) were defecting to David, he blamed David,
rather than considering that his own actions were the cause of men parting ways
- Sometimes we feel misunderstood when in truth others understand us
better than we think they do. Self-deception is a real possibility. We may
think, as the rich young ruler did, that our motives are righteous and pure, when
in fact love of money is deeper than love of God; when we are motivated more by
self than true service; when we want the praise of men more than the praise of
God; when we are being protective of ourselves under the pretense of being humble.
Unfortunately, when someone lays bare our hidden motives, we are prone to
"walk away sorrowful," like the rich young ruler, instead of kneeling in
repentance. Some people reading this article may have read the opening
illustration, for example, and decided, "Well, I'll just have to accept being
misunderstood," when really they are being difficult and uncooperative in a relationship.
- We must love the truth. Paul wrote about those who
"received not the love of the truth, that they might be
saved." And he added, "For this cause God shall
send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie"
(2 Thessalonians 2:10,11). We must love the truth more than our image. We must
rather be corrected than always proved right.
- We must walk in God's light. Jesus told Nicodemus,
"He that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds
may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God" (John 3:21).
People who are not willing to be open, not willing to show their deeds, not
willing to talk to those over them, are going to be misunderstood. In the
process of honest inquiry, silence gives occasion for many misunderstandings.
- We must accept misunderstandings only if we are willing to work in
the best interests of those who misunderstand us. This is an important
test of our motives. Jesus was misunderstood by the Jews of His day, and yet
He was willing to die for them. Some people are willing to be silent about
being misunderstood, and they think they are following Jesus' example. But
they take a "time will prove you wrong" attitude, or they resort to sulking
or being uncooperative, or they remove themselves as far as possible from
those who misunderstand them.
This is hardly the Spirit of Christ, who offered redemption for the very
ones who rejected Him.
- If we are misunderstood, and we...
- Pray for those who misunderstand us;
- Are kind and respectful toward those who slight us;
- Seek the good of those who judge us wrongly;
- Protect the reputation of those who slander us;
- Privately work in the best interests of those who are working against
us, and purposely avoid telling them what we do for them;
- Thank the Lord for the purifying effect in our lives when we are misunderstood;
- ...then we have the Spirit of Jesus, "Who, when he was
reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed
himself to him that judgeth righteously" (1 Peter 2:23).