Christian Living

Why We Hate Being Misunderstood

The Witness

It’s happened to all of us. If you are a writer, public speaker, teacher, or communicator of any kind, you have felt misunderstood. You work long and hard to make a particular point about yourself or an idea. You try to live your life in a way that honors the Lord and loves your neighbor. You desperately want the person listening, the people around you or audience in front of you to understand whatever it is you’re working diligently to express.

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Despite your labors and efforts, the unthinkable happens. Your church member, a friend or worse, a random stranger on your blog, completely misunderstands what you tried to communicate. You’re in utter disbelief.

My Little Secret

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I know this feeling all too well. Being misunderstood has caused me sleepless nights and tears. If anyone wants to rock my world, just say I said something I didn’t say. You want to see me angry (hulk voice)? Misinterpret my words or actions and I may turn into a big chocolate angry monster. Okay, the latter is unlikely, but this doesn’t mean I’m not tempted.

Full disclosure: I’m not the best communicator. I have to work hard at it. I’m often misunderstood, not because my audiences are poor listeners but because I’m a poor communicator. So with my poor talking skills piled on top of my sensitivity, you can imagine life has been one big emotional roller coaster.

Beneath Our Façade

Maybe deep down you’re like me. You hate being misunderstood. You want others to properly interpret your words and actions. You will do whatever it takes and work as hard as you can to never feel misunderstood again.

We generally work hard at the things we value most. This reality begs the question: Is being understood what we’re really conflicted about? Could it be our fear of others opinions of us is what’s driving us mad? I don’t have an x-ray into your heart but if I had to make a diagnosis from the blogosphere, my guess is what you really value is the thoughts of others.

People are Scary

I’m a grown man and I admit people are scary. Like, really scary! I’m not talking about powerful people or criminals who have the ability to harm us. The people I’m referring to are quite common. They are everyday people: friends, families, co-workers and church members. They are our Twitter followers and Facebook friends. My point is no matter who they are or how much power they lack, if a person has an interpretation of you they possess the ability to strike fear in you.

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Interestingly enough, scripture is not surprised humans fear each other. It has something to say on the fear of man:

Proverbs 29:25 ESV

The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.

Hebrews 13:6 ESV

So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

Matthew 10:28 ESV

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

The scriptures see beneath our façade and gets straight to the issue. We’re warned our sinful disposition to fear the analysis of others is a “snare”. Another word for “snare” is trap.

If we allow the opinions of others to ambush us we lose our freedom. We lose the freedom to live life the way the Lord intends. Our whole being is held captive: our thoughts, words, actions, emotions and even our souls are at the mercy of the unmerciful, which is the thoughts and analysis of others. We submit our lives to something that isn’t worth yielding to. Our submission was meant for someone who offers liberty and destroys snares. We were designed to fear the one who is fearless.

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Stranger Danger

The human’s point of view is limited. This limitation causes us to make ridiculous decisions and respond in bizarre ways. Think about it. If all humans struggle in some way with the fear of man, we are all afraid of one another. We hide from those we fear. Therefore, our fear of one another prevents the very gift God has given to the church, which is true fellowship.

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The people our God has given us become strangers and because we have been ambushed by sinful fear, everything in us screams danger, danger! Hiding isolates us and this is, at least, one of the traps of the fear of man.

Fearing the Fearless

In the latter verses quoted above the unknown author of Hebrews and Jesus redirects our fear to the one who is worthy of, not only our fear, but our love, adoration and worship. He is the fearless one. Only God possesses the power to destroy us eternally. He is eternally matchless in power, glory, holiness and might. Yet by his grace, he has provided sweet freedom and love in Jesus to those who believe.

When we’re misunderstood, our Father understands and sees sons and daughters that please him because our identity is Jesus’. When we are justly accused of sinful words and deeds, the Father lovingly proclaims our adoption, sees us as heirs and invites us back into fellowship because of the work of our elder brother Jesus.

Our fear of God is not like the fear of man. Those who fear man walk in darkness but those who fear God walk boldly in the light because we are free in Jesus. We are free from the bondage of opinions, analysis and shame of man. We are free from sin. We are children of the light. We walk in freedom.

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