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Romans 12:18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
Romans 12:21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
Misunderstandings happen! They are part of living in this fallen world among fallen people. The beautiful thing about knowing God is that He is able to show us that even in the midst of a misunderstanding, there are opportunities hidden that can change your life, and relationships, forever. So, let’s look at some ways this can happen!
The title of this post may seem a little crazy, but right from the start let’s point out that there are some things about misunderstandings that you and I simply will not be able to control and even with this being the case, there are still opportunities and blessings that can be found. We can, however, control how we handle misunderstandings when (not if) these misunderstandings occur. So, how can we view these otherwise scary occurrences in such a way that will be a blessing to us and will help us to see them in a more constructive way?
The Nature of Misunderstandings
The word “misunderstanding” has been defined simply as “A failure to understand something correctly”. There is also another definition: “Something that scares people half to death so that they spend the other half of their lives trying to avoid it”. Okay, I’ll admit that I made up that last one, but isn’t that really the truth?! People are so deathly afraid of being misunderstood that they miss golden opportunities that lie right before their very eyes. Opportunities that, if seen and taken, will lend themselves to not only making the person better and more mature, but if done wisely, will actually strengthen their relationship with the one (or ones) with whom they have the misunderstanding.
Now, for the record I am not saying that we should not care at all about whether or not we are misunderstood, nor am I encouraging anyone to just go through life with a “people are going to misunderstand me anyway, so who cares” kind of mentality. What I am encouraging is to look at these times, not so much as a time of absolute detriment as some seem to, but as a learning opportunity because these learning opportunities are everywhere if we’ll just take the appropriate time to look for them.
Why are Misunderstandings So Feared?
As people, we have a natural tendency to desire to belong to the larger group; a group mentality. Just take a look around society and you’ll see it all around you. This being the case, we also must maintain a certain reputation among the group in order to be considered in good standing with the group. Many people do this even to great detriment of their own personal growth. This presents a kind of “third self”. The first self being who we know ourselves to be. The second self is who those closest to us know us to be. The third self is who those outside of our immediate circle of influence know us to be and it is this third self that we try to ensure has the best reputation possible. This can cause people to rather suffer in silence than to speak up about a situation whether it be in a business meeting at work, in a military unit, or in the family at home.
I believe that people fear misunderstandings so much simply because misunderstandings can mar the image, at least for a time, of this third self that people try so hard to maintain. This, I believe, is the immediate and most natural reason people fear misunderstandings. Simply put; a misunderstanding can tarnish the reputation they are trying to maintain. This may sound like a negative reason, but it seems to be the most natural reason; the reason that prohibits people from seeing the opportunities that are present because they are so busy trying to maintain what’s on the surface that they don’t really dig any deeper to find the opportunities that lie beneath the surface.
Being the Understander
Remember the definition from earlier? A misunderstanding is “A failure to understand something correctly”. That means there is a responsibility on the understander’s part. The great majority of people do not take on this responsibility to understand because it is not in our nature to try to understand others and many (I’d say most) do not rise above this human nature. It’s easier to just assume.
Dealing with True Misrepresentation
I’ll take a moment here to bring out that if a misunderstanding does indeed misrepresent the person’s true character and their true intentions in a material or truly detrimental way; a way that affects their job, their family, or their public reputation, then there are times it must at least be attempted to be addressed. You may not always be successful in the attempt for whatever reason, but you should at least try.
We’re told in Hebrews 12:14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: and in one of the opening scriptures, Romans 12:18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. These scriptures indicate to us that we must at least make the attempt and do it in a wise way.
So When, if Ever, Should You Not be Afraid of Misunderstandings?
It is only after you can honestly say you have done all that “lieth in you” and it is obvious the other party is not buying it, for whatever their personal reasons are. Once you have done all you can do, without absolutely hounding them, then turn it over to God and let Him work it out! Be content and secure in your attempts. It is imperative during the process of a misunderstanding that you must ensure your own heart is clean and pure from evil motives and bitterness, which leads us into our next section…
Beware of Bitterness During a Misunderstanding
We are told in Hebrews 12:14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. Take note of the “…and holiness” part of the scripture. There is no situation…no situation in which bitterness in the heart is warranted or allowed by God. If anyone had a reason to be bitter at how He was treated, it was (and is) Jesus, and yet He did not allow that root of bitterness to spring up, or as Paul says in Hebrews 12:15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled. Bitterness, it’s been said, is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. Really, in misunderstandings, there are great opportunities to live if we’d only look for them with that kind of goal!
Misunderstandings Are Really Opportunities in Disguise!
Misunderstandings are really an opportunity for your real character to shine through! What opportunities are there? There is the opportunity to try to make a connection. Reach out with a message of appreciation to the other person, even if it’s not returned or reciprocated, do it anyway!
Make it so obvious through your actions that there is a misunderstanding that the other party will have no choice but to see your true intentions or they’ll be forced to hold on to what they think though it obviously does not line up with your actions.
I believe it was President Abraham Lincoln, when asked about a negative headline that was written about him and put his character in a negative light, who once said that he would so live his life that no one would believe that headline. That’s the idea! To do all you can do, or as the Apostle put it “…as much as lieth in you…”. That will not only show the proof of your true intentions, but it will also help bring peace to your own soul, because once you’ve done all you can do there isn’t much more that can be done! Now, it’ll be up to God to do the rest, and do the rest He will…whatever that may be!
Lord, during times of misunderstanding, help me to do my part. If my part is to understand others more correctly, then I ask for Your help in being willing to get that understanding. If I’m the misunderstood one, then I ask for the grace to not allow bitterness to become a factor in my thinking, but rather to allow You to lead my thoughts and therefore my actions because I know it will work out for the good of everyone involved. I trust You with the outcomes of every situation. Amen!