WHEN MISUNDERSTOOD

Neal Pollard

It will happen, at least occasionally. A remark you make gets taken out of context, will not be correctly heard, or will be heard through the personal filters of the listener. Your facial expressions and body language may not accurately express your feelings or at least not tell the whole story. People may ignore the adage, “Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see.” While that truism may be naive and certainly not entirely true, we’ve all been on the receiving end of others’ misunderstandings of what we’ve written, said, or done. What do we do when we feel we’ve been unfairly treated by the misunderstandings of others? Consider the following:

  • Try to understand others better.  Everybody has been through the same thing. I need to make sure I’ve not misunderstood intonation, intention, motivation, emotion, or information. It’s easy to happen.
  • Don’t obsess over the hurt. The world has enough victims, and the perpetual victim is exhausting. I cannot afford to fixate on the fracture. I am usually best served to let it g.
  • Rejoice in the great company you are keeping. Jesus’ whole life and ministry was misunderstood by the religious leaders of His day. Their misunderstanding was certainly not the meat of His mission. His eyes focused on the bigger picture. He was perfectly sinless and still unjustly treated. I can rejoice when I’m in a similar position, sinful though I am.
  • Turn to God, not gossip. This is hard! The urge to lash out and retaliate can seem irresistible, but it’s definitely possible. How much greater peace and harmony would come if we resolved to pray (even for the “misunderstander”) when misunderstood?
  • Redouble your efforts to spread salt and light. I may be tempted to throw up my hands and say, “What’s the use? If this is what I get, I quit.” That doesn’t sound so good when I can read it in print. Instead, I need to strive harder to do good.
  • If necessary, clarify but with utmost love and kindness. But, let me do some serious soul-searching and ask, “Is it really necessary?” Can I turn my cheek(s) and move on? If I truly cannot, I need to cleanse my heart of sinful anger and act in genuine love and kindness toward my “aggressor.”
  • Remember that wisdom is justified of her children. Ultimately, the body of work that is your life will leave a clear impression. Most people who know us know more about us than we think. They see what side of the ledger our lives are lived on and they draw conclusions accordingly. I just need to be characterized by righteousness and good works.
  • Be sure you are communicating clearly. Communication is a problem in every medium and relationship. Some do better than others, but all make mistakes. When I am misunderstood, I need the humility and honesty to step back and ask if I asked for a reaction through unclear meaning or veiled messages.

I hate to be misunderstood. But as with every other trial, I can often find blessings even in these distasteful situations. My prayer is that I will not be conformed to the world (or the worldly), but I can be transformed by the renewing of my mind. That’s going to turn out for the best (Rom. 12:1-2).

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“TOLERANCE, ACCEPTANCE, EMBRACE”

 

Neal Pollard

One of the feature stories in today’s USA Today is a glowing feature about a homosexual couple getting married in Maryland, one of the states to legalize homosexual marriage in the last election.  The article is also about changing attitudes in our nation.  Chuck Raash, the author, states in the course of writing that 53% of Americans surveyed say they think that same-sex married couples should enjoy the same rights as heterosexual couples.  Perhaps the statistic I found more interesting was that 36% of people surveyed have changed their mind about this issue during their lifetime.  While those numbers are not further analyzed, the tone of the article would suggest that most, if not all, have changed from opposing to accepting it.  One of the grooms summed up the “three stages” homosexuals often face when they reveal their preference to the people in their lives–“tolerance, acceptance, embrace” (USA Today, 1/9/13, A-1).  I do not doubt any of the statistics in the article, nor do I disagree with the fact of such gradual change in thinking in people’s minds toward matters like homosexuality.

Yet, I would disagree with this man and those who support his lifestyle that such change is positive.  Sin is very often met with such a gradual, changing attitude.  The 18th Century English poet, Alexander Pope, is actually the originator of the thought from the afore-quoted groom.  In “Essay on Man,” Pope said, “Vice is a monster of so frightful mien, as to be hated needs but to be seen. Yet too oft, familiar with her face, we first endure, then pity, then embrace.”  The idea, especially in context of the whole, is that people’s attitude toward sin soften through the attrition of exposure.  That is, the more we are exposed to sin, the more comfortable and desensitized to it we become.  When a sin is increasingly portrayed as positive and right and people stop speaking against it, that society inevitably moves from disapproval to embrace.

Isaiah speaks of people getting things spiritually backward, calling evil “good” and good “evil” (5:20).  Consciences get seared (1 Tim. 4:2). They become callous, having “given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness” (Eph. 4:19).  Someone may deny God’s existence or that the Bible is His inspired Word, but those who claim faith in both cannot consistently do so but tolerate, accept, or embrace what He says therein is sin!