How to… Deal with Being Misunderstood

When I was younger, I remember saying “It’s not my fault…” or “No one understands…” and feeling like no one wanted to hear my point of view and wouldn’t really understand it even if they did. Over the years, being misunderstood became a source of frustration that quickly grew into anger over other people’s failure to hear me out or to even care. I remember simply feeling like I had little value.

Recently, my accountability partner and I talked about how being misunderstood made her feel hurt too. Our discussion drove me to God’s Word and what it has to say about being misunderstood and how to handle it when it happens. Two main applications came from my time with God on this topic.

Understand the Role of Assumptions

We all make them. In fact, we can’t help but make them. They can be helpful, especially when focused on positive attributes and outcomes. But they can also be deadly and set us up for serious disappointment, especially considering the fact that our assumptions are so often dead wrong.  The story of David’s messengers and the sons of Ammon in 1 Chronicles 19 provides a poignant example of how wrong assumptions can lead to stupidity, embarrassment and even physical harm and death.

No easy solution exists for mitigating the role of assumptions except perhaps increased awareness and not allowing assumptions to serve as hard fact. Also, when possible, avoid any rash decisions and actions based solely on assumptions. Assumptions have a big impact on our Interpersonal Skills and even on our email communication, so mindfully considering their role is important.

Know What You Can Control

Simply put, we cannot control what other people do, say or think. Sure, we can influence and persuade, but ultimately others decide their own attitudes, actions and words. Romans 12:18 says “if possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Knowing what you can control and doing your part goes a long way in reducing feeling misunderstood. Not only that, but the hurt, frustration and anger that can accompany those feelings decreases as you do your part to live at peace with others.

With that in mind…

  1. Clear up misunderstandings when possible. This best happens through face-to-face communication. Simply talk it out. The story of the offensive altar in Joshua 22:10-34 provides a terrific example of how a serious misunderstanding resolved well through face-to-face communication.
  2. Cover misunderstandings if possible. Proverbs 17:9 talks about concealing a wrongdoing for the sake of seeking love, and that principle certainly applies to misunderstandings too.  Sometimes misunderstandings simply cannot be cleared up, and the choice of being right or having relationship must be made.
  3. Simply present the truth. Jesus was misunderstood probably more than any other person. But story after story reveals that Jesus presented the facts, didn’t argue, and let people make their own decisions. Sometimes, simply presenting the truth and then moving on can be the best way to avoid being hurt by misunderstanding. Doesn’t mean people will automatically understand and agree, but it allows you to do your part to “be at peace” with others.
  4. Realize the impact of established beliefs. Jesus constantly fought against this, and we see it best in his discussions with the Pharisees, though really His entire ministry dealt with this. They had established beliefs that blinded them to the Truth He offered. If we’re honest, this happens to us as well when we fail to acknowledge the existence of such beliefs, check their accuracy with scripture and/or pass them off as simply personal preference.
  5. Seek first to understand. For our parts, we can also avoid acting solely on assumptions absent of facts and based only on appearances or our preconceived notions of ill intent. In other words, we can do our best to understand others before making sure they understand us. Not only do we set an example of healthy interpersonal communication, but we also decrease our own mistakes birthed out of misunderstanding others.

Realizing the role of misunderstanding in my life has brought me healing and given me victory over a quick temper as well as strengthened relationships in general. How can managing misunderstanding change your life?

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