Before I delve into Misunderstood, I want to give a brief progress report on self-employment. I laugh every time I say it. Like I’m saying, “Me and the Mrs.” or something so very unlike me that the words cause my head to swivel around to see who is speaking. But I like the sound of “self-employment”, more than I like, “unemployed.” I appreciated the bank rep with whom I worked. When I asked if my business credit card could be denied because I’m not employed, she said, “Oh, but you are. You’re self-employed!” She almost got a hug.
I’m getting closer to sharing my business concept publicly. I’m not trying to be mysterious. I share it with anyone I talk with. It’s just that publicly, like on the big Internet, is a whole other measure of sharing, and I want certain things to be in place, so when the flood of questions come in, I’m prepared.
Last week was a mix of many things. I was strategic about incorporating people into my day, which resolved the loneliness I was feeling by working at home without human connections. I went to an early morning bible study, rode my bike, and met a couple of friends for a walk. I also analyzed my LLC Operating Agreement and spoke with Legal Zoom tax and business attorneys. I opened a business bank account, worked on my business plan, and corresponded with an agent about commercial insurance, which I hope to finalize this week. I worked a really great one-day customer appreciation gig I got off of Craigslist. Within that, I learned (thanks to You Tube, again) to shuck oysters. When I agreed to do that in advance, I had no idea what shucking live oysters entailed. Live oysters come with other live things, like a little crab, barnacles and some other sort of wiggly thing. Ugh. But I powered through. I took a picture, but I’m not going to post it; I don’t even like looking at it.
I’ve decided that being misunderstood is responsible for many damaged relationships. I know a whole bunch of stories where people have shut down relationships because they weren’t able to communicate themselves well, someone didn’t communicate the whole story, a third party was neglectful in the way they told a story, or a person wasn’t even sure they knew how they felt, but how they were interpreted definitely was not the heart of what they intended. Maybe it was a missed text, a missed post, or two people were talking, but walking in opposite directions, and they just didn’t hear well. There are so many different scenarios that can lead to being misunderstood. If we were a forgiving people and naturally gave the benefit of the doubt to everyone, being misunderstood wouldn’t be a big deal. Unfortunately, we tend to be a cynical, critical bunch. Given that, we have to be mindful that we are human, and in our humanness, there is a high likelihood that we’ll be misunderstood, which is worth considering before we cut someone off, or add another brick to that wall we’re building.
When we react out of hurt or anger, our tendency is to layer bricks to what we believe is a wall of protection. In reality, it’s a wall of prevention: prevention from experiencing all the joy and happiness that awaits us. If we haven’t learned along the way how to contend with hurt, pain, and confusion, one hurt at a time, we pile them up. The wall gets to a point where it’s difficult to see beyond, or to remove any of the bricks, where pride is the binding mortar.
I know I’ve been on the giving side of being misunderstood. I’ve miscommunicated, I’ve left someone out, or have been absorbed in my own life. Once I realized this, I could only hope to be forgiven, and I recognized the value in giving others a break.
I once hosted a party and forgot to include someone who is now one of my best friends. She was the wife of president of the youth football organization. I was inviting everyone. Everyone! But I forgot to include her in the email. Fortunately, she brought up the gathering. I was embarrassed and apologized profusely, but the explanation still fell short: I forgot her?! Very recently, I completely forgot another best friend’s birthday. In this case, I was grateful for Instagram, after I saw a post by her daughter. I was able to redeem myself because she’s that kind of friend. But what about the occasions where someone didn’t say something to me or I wasn’t reminded on social media, because I missed a post (which in my case is often). What happens when I’m just tired and don’t feel like giving an explanation to something, or extend an extra amount of effort toward someone? What if lounging in the sun and eating nachos is more appealing than answering the phone some days? That’s not likely, but what if?!
A misunderstanding can cause us to become slighted or offended, and even indignant. We can stack that wall, or we can step back and consider options that will make a way for us to see more clearly. As Christians we know that God is perfect love. God’s Spirit lives in us, and there is no fear in perfect love. Of what do we have to be afraid? What causes indignation? Fear of rejection, loss of status or reputation, questioning our worth and value? These are worthy considerations, yet as a Christian I seek not to be measured by the world’s judgement, but by God’s judgement of me. John 4:16-18 explains that perfect love casts out fear. When I trust in perfect love, my fears of loss and anger subside, and I can begin deconstructing walls… or maybe not building them to begin with. And I can be at peace with my fallibilities, and yours, too.
Whether it’s in a social, personal, or professional arena, addressing misunderstandings is worth the discomfort that accompanies making the effort towards clarity. At work one day I’d received a really negative reaction from a co-worker. I couldn’t imagine why she was so angry with me. I did my best to engage her so we could sort it out, but she would have nothing to do with it. I was grateful our supervisor called a meeting. She is so great about confronting hard issues and she has learned some skills that are pivotal in resolution. She began the meeting with all of us stating what we appreciate about the other. Beautiful! We all softened. Then my accusers (there was another who was in agreement with the first) stated their beef with me. Bam. A complete misunderstanding. I held back the tears and silently reminded myself that I was a professional. I was determined to avoid an emotional breakdown, yet there were obvious dead give aways on my face that signaled distress. When it was my turn to speak, I said, “I believe I’ve been misunderstood.” About the same time, my supervisor agreed and confessed a key piece of communication that she’d forgotten to provide to this portion of staff. Being unaware of this information, they were in the dark, and blamed me for something of which I wasn’t guilty. There were a couple of tears among all of us, but they were minimal, and happy. This could have gone a completely different direction had we not taken time for discovery.
Sometimes we don’t need discovery, but rather acceptance. Perhaps others are juggling things in their world, and we’re a ball that gets dropped. Maybe a friend is really good at looking like she’s got it all together, but in reality she has a child on her hip while she’s stirring gravy and helping her 2nd grader with math, wondering how she’s going to get her 8 year old to dance practice, and her husband is away on business. At this time in her life, it’s hard for her to wrap her head around her friend who needs her because she broke up with her boyfriend of 10 years. Maybe someone is struggling to keep themselves or their marriage together, and as a result they’re missing some cues from their children. Sometimes, we need to look past a personality type that we don’t like. Even a personality type can be misunderstood. Scenarios like these happen ALL. THE. TIME.
I understand that not all rifts are a result of misunderstandings. But so many are! Our relationships are life giving and vital to our well being. This is one thousand times more true when this is your family. Paul says not to let the sun go down while we are still angry. Anger is real and at times justified. But if it’s fueling brokenness, especially in your family, you’ve let the sun go down on your anger, and it’s worth exploring a misunderstanding.
The biggest tragedy of all is this: Most of the walls we build are preventable. When we refuse to humble ourselves and to use our skills, of which most of us are capable, we rob not just ourselves of joy, but we rob everyone of joy. The wall builder and those who are on the other side of the wall are missing out. We miss the fullness of all God has to offer us now, in this life, experiencing the intimacies of one another today and the memories we will cherish once our loved ones are gone.
In other words: We miss you.
We are capable. We will reap huge rewards when we are courageous, confront awkward moments and sacrifice our pride. Let us be human. When Jesus was on the cross he said, “Forgive them Father; they know not what they do.” If only we could follow his humble and brave expression of love.
Forgive me, Father. For I also know not what I do.