What to do when you are misunderstood
Sitting across from a woman who was introduced to me as a prophet, I was shocked when she told me that I had been misunderstood for most of my life. It wasn't until that moment that I began to collect the memories and recall the occasions that either affirmed or discredited this claim. Paired with a few other specific understandings about my life so far, I had to concede that her words had wisdom and insight. What was more challenging than the label of these moments of being misunderstood was what to do when it will inevitably happen again.
Here is what you have to come to grips with, everyone is not going to fully understand you. Not even yourself. The more we can accept a level of being a walking talking enigma, the sooner we are able to have a bit more grace and compassion on those who are bumping into our personal space.
The more you know yourself, the more patience you have for what you see in others. - Erik Erikson
As I am typing these words a young man asks me nervously if I have seen his friend and another fella pulls cans out of the trash next to him. Both are situations that I am powerless to help other than being willing to look them in the eye, reassure the young man things will be okay, and ask how the other person is today.
In these brief exchanges I can see the quick and selfish path is to ignore or even cut the conversation off by being rude or cold. The reality is, there are dozens of little decisions that made this moment happen and a misunderstanding can often escalate us in a direction that derails God's plan for us and others.
Here is my encouragement to you if you feel like life is over because a key person misunderstands you and what you can do to overcome any residual pain or grief.
SLOW IT DOWN
In his book, "Never Split the Difference" Chris Voss provides strategic methods to negotiate for moments in life from how to get your kids to clean their room to how to get a free flight. One of the key principles in managing any situation is to change up the pace as a way to break out of the momentum that may be built from being misunderstood.
Usually a misunderstood moment comes with a great deal of emotion and pull that can send us flying off the handle. We can see in in bar brawls and in sibling tantrums, the pace is often what escalates the misunderstanding further and further away from resolution or relief.
Take a deep breath and step away, put down the phone, engage in a healthy conversation in real-time, or even get out of town for a few hours. Do something to change the pace and SLOW-IT-DOWN.
THE MOST IMPORTANT VOICE
Although we love to receive opinions from clusters of people who approve of our work, our efforts, our some characteristic about ourselves, it can become a nightmare of static, noise, and abuse in a misunderstanding. You might be able to identify that there usually is a label, an attempt to summarize who you are or what you should or shouldn't because of their opinion about something. Be adult enough to listen for threads of truth, but usually, there is one voice that can be really cutting or isolating. Yet when that voice starts to rally and disengage others from a relationship, that is toxic and can be really defeating.
What needs to take shape in this time is identifying who has the most important voice. A lot of self-help would tell you "Your voice is the most important". Your self worth and opinion is important, but I can't tell you how many times I had a skewed view of myself in one direction or the other. The one voice to listen to and to navigate worth from is that of God's as found in Scripture. It is in this practice of both reading the Word and spending time with the Holy Spirit can we remain tuned into the most important voice.
LET CONSISTENCY DEFINE REALITY, OR REDEFINE IT
The most powerful tool one can use against a misunderstanding is by being consistent in the outlook, character, and conversation you carry on with. I encouraged someone today who was being pulled into a work triangle of drama to not change their "flight plan" they were cruising at an altitude of professionalism, respect, and integrity. However, there were atmospheric pressures that sought to pull them down into the storm that really was just going to delay the overall goal or destination in their day.
We need to be encouraged to let those storms rumble and strike where they may, but they don't derail us in our efforts to carry out the goals, morality, or calling of discipleship in our day-to-day.
Truth is, we all are going to be misunderstood in one way or another and we can't remain feeling powerless, paralyzed, or even pressurized (you ready to pop?) We need the pace to give is space, we need to now how to hear the voice of Truth, and we need to aspire to a life of consistency that mirrors the God we follow.
There may be a day where a misunderstanding feels life your life is over. However, I promise you it is not.
Keep Looking Up!
P.S. The young man found his friend and gave me a wave as I wrapped up this post!