Recently I sent a text message to a friend…a text message that was meant to be seen only by my husband. Awkward, right? To make it more awkward, this friend is a male colleague of mine. Thankfully all I texted was “when will you be home?” My friend texted back “I am home now” which then alerted me to the fact that 0ops! I sent my message to the wrong man! We had a good laugh. (Thankfully I didn’t text my husband something more private!)
Being misunderstood is something usually so much deeper than the above scenario. I think we’ve all been there. When someone makes a judgement about you and won’t let you correct them. Or when you or someone else says something apparently innocent, but for someone it packs a punch of hurt and offense because the connotations bite at a very real hurt unknown to the person who made the comment. Being misunderstood. It’s like being put into a box out of your control and how do you negotiate with the ones who have put you there – the ones who believe their idea about you, and not your truth? How can you start the peace treaty talks when you’re the one who is in the prison of being misunderstood? How do you try to correct a rumor or misconception about you or your character when the circumstances or persons in power have put a proverbial piece of duct tape over your mouth and so you feel you have no voice to raise?
Being misunderstood. Right now I am feeling this tension. With all the talk lately on women in ministry and women’s ordination that is happening within my denomination, it’s crazy to be at the receiving end of stigma, judgement, anger, and labels. Let me make it clear that many in our church are in favor of women in ministry and women’s ordination. But there are also those who are not in favor of it, which is ok: it’s a great discussion and dialogue and there is much study and understanding coming to the surface. But there is also much hurt being done in the name of “defending truth” and some of the methods that are being done of showing disfavor to women in ministry/ordination, is frankly, well, hateful. I won’t go too in-depth. However, the main item of misunderstanding that comes from those who disagree with women in ministry, is that they have a perception that women who are in ministry are women liberal feminists who are trying to trample upon men and take the role of the man. They believe that women’s ordination (and most likely women who are pastors) are in a spirit of open rebellion and need to remember their “God-given role”. So then I am now lumped in a box of being a feminist and in their minds am on a campaign of evil rebellion to raise up myself in a role that only belongs to a man. (It’s a crazy hurtful thing to be misunderstood, especially by those who claim to follow a spirit of truth…)
But if they only knew me…and most of us… they would know this is not the case…isn’t that the frustration with being misunderstood? If they had asked me, they would know that I am not a pastor to try to push a political agenda. They would know that I didn’t even want to be a pastor because of all this bickering over the issue. They would know that I don’t care about titles and politics within the church – that I love people and my students. That I see the hurt in this world and I am raising my unique voice of love to try to drown out the hate that so tries to steal at us all. If they really knew me, they would know that I yearn to work in collaboration with all races, genders, personalities, skill-sets, etc to LOVE this world that is looking for a picture of LOVE and has for so long seen only hate and dissonance within the Church. My soul is tired and hurt once more – once more I find myself being misunderstood, all because I am following my God and wanting to change this world with LOVE… but alas, I am of the female gender (something I had no choice in and choose not to change) and therefore am put in the box of misunderstanding.
Being misunderstood. No matter who you are on this spinning earth, you will be misunderstood. There’s no getting around it. The question, then, is what can be the beauty inside of being misunderstood? How does one see it as a gift and how do you deal with being that person who is in that prison of misunderstanding? Here’s what I have found to be my dance in this place of being misunderstood. These are the jewels I have learned and what I do, and how I cope, and THRIVE! These are the ingredients I have found that keep me from becoming bitter and resentful. These truths I need to encourage myself with once again tonight.
How to Thrive Thru Being Misunderstood:
- Briefly analyze yourself and your situation to see if there is any truth in the accusations. (I emphasize briefly because some of us can torture ourselves over-analyzing a situation, thus throwing fuel on the fire of our own soul).
- Take out time to be silent and to mourn the situation – and then, as my dad used to say after a good cry when I was a kid, “wash your face” (in other words, listen to the pain, let it express itself, and then turn the page and show it by example that healing can come and that, because these are lies that are spoken, they do not define the authentic self and that it’s ok to move on).
- See the misunderstanding as a gift – even though it may not feel like it, this is an oppurtunity to remember that the lies of others do not define you and never to bow to the opinions of others – it’s an exercise in being a free spirit, and not becoming slaves to the schemes of man.
- Never stoop to their level – don’t say something or print something that you will not be able to take back and therefore chain yourself to shackles of regret.
- Be you!! You only have this one life and there’s only one of you ever! Never ever ever change your sacred core self to try to stoop to the ever-changing mirages of other’s approval
- Take Jesus’ example: You don’t have to defend yourself – your works and actions and fruits will speak for themselves! (And you know what they say about actions…)
- Focus on what really matters – Your job, your family, ultimately your calling for this time in history. Find yourself making the world a better place. Take the negative energy that others are pouring on you, and let it motivate you to turn it into positive energy by loving all those in your sphere. The world needs more love and heroes in it – there will always be the villains who will do everything they can to stop you from fulfilling your destiny, your calling. I like asking myself: if this were a movie, what would I want my character to do in this situation? This is where the story gets good because the audience is on the edge of their seats wondering, “what will she do with this crazy turn of events?!” Own it!
- Surround yourself with people who love you and celebrate you! These are the people who honor your true self and just being in their presence will remind you that the lies others tell about you are not even worth your energy.
- Don’t bite the bait of controversy and gossip that may surround you. So many times when we know that there are websites and news going on about us or our situation, there is a great temptation to see what they’re all saying…although it’s good to be aware of what is being said so that you can know how to answer, beware of the addiction of controversy that can become all-consuming (check out my blog “Addicted to Great Controversy“).
- Try to follow Matthew 18 – Try to make an effort to talk to the person(s) who may be spreading this rumor or preaching against your character, and have a civil conversation of both sides sharing. Sometimes when we hear where both parties are coming from, compassion can be birthed. But this is not always the case. If they don’t hear you out, then leave the ball in their court and let it go. Jesus hinted at this concept when He referred to it as “shaking the dust off your feet” and moving on.
- Remember that you can’t control others – but you can control yourself – you are the one who sees your face in the mirror at the end of the day – when you love yourself, you don’t need to prove anything to others because you know where you stand, and that love will flow out to those around you.
- Remember the TRUTH about how God views you – You are Beloved. Don’t let the voices of the naysayers become the voice of God in your ears. It’s interesting to note that a lot of deep hurt has and is originated from the “godly”. Many of them will try to convince you that they speak for God. This is not true. We now have the Holy Spirit, which means that God is everywhere and has the capacity and desire to be with and speak to each of us. (Here’s some great reminder promises of God’s view of us: Hebrews 13:6; Jeremiah 29:11; Romans 8:31-39; Deuteronomy 31:6; Joshua 1:9; Matthew 5:10).
- Laugh and keep your sense of humor – This is God’s gift to us of a reality check and an unconcious way of dodging bitterness.
- Do your utmost to raise your voice of your story – misunderstanding is usually always the child of miscommunication. If after the other party has heard your side of the story, and they still refuse to “hear” you, go in peace. You’ve done your part – you cannot control them.
- Always think TWICE, or even three or more times, when you feel the urge to put someone else in a box. After surviving being misunderstood, don’t be the perpetrator to someone else. Use your experience as a compassionate reminder to not consciously do the same to another human brother or sister.
- Pray for those who are putting you in the box, as well as for yourself. This can be hard at times. But remember prayer is not a way of excusing the hurt that has been done to you – it is a way of staying free from bitterness, getting true inner healing from that hurt, and prayer reminds me not to put myself on a pedestal over others. Sometimes pain can morph into self-righteousness – prayer helps keep this from happening.
(What would you add? What are some things and ways you’ve dealt with being misunderstood that have worked for you?)
Wherever you are and whatever your circumstances are with being misunderstood, I leave you with this quote from Martin Luther King Jr:
“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent.”
The “freedom” mentioned from this quote I take into my situation and interpret it as the freedom to not let the circumstances and words of others define my reality. So straighten your back, hold your head up, and keep living the dangerous, misunderstood way of LOVE!