Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions. (Airing daily on Hope 103.2 and Inspire Digital at 9am)
“I’m just a soul whose intentions are good, Oh Lord please don’t let me be misunderstood”, says a popular song first recorded in 1964 and one of the top 500 songs of all time. It’s a plea not to be misunderstood.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines the word ‘misunderstanding’ as an occasion when someone does not understand something correctly. All of us go through life being misunderstood at least some of the time. I’m sure you can think of one or two experiences where you were deliberately misunderstood, and it hurt and the memory is not a happy one.
And it can be one of the most frustrating experiences of life. How can we ever completely understand each other when we have all walked different roads, with different life experiences? We can’t. We can try. We can put ourselves in others’ shoes and develop empathy, certainly. But we can never hope to be completely understood by others. You’re very fortunate if you have a close friend who understands you completely.
Misunderstanding Can Be Painful
Misunderstanding can lie hidden in the heart; you may think you have dismissed it or forgotten it, but it is just festering away, smouldering like a fire that refuses to go out. Sometimes, unexpectedly, it bursts into flames; you are angry at somebody, and you hardly realise why, but it is because something has been left unsettled.
Sometimes people misread our actions or even our intentions. Perhaps our handwriting or our speech did not come across as clearly as we thought it had. Sometimes being misunderstood can be humorous and sometimes not. Usually, when we are misunderstood, it is no big deal, and if it is corrected early enough, there is no damage done.
Sometimes misunderstandings, even simple ones over ordinary things can fracture even close relationships, and sadly, they can show up even when we’ve taken care to speak and act as carefully as we possibly can. Sometimes misunderstandings even arise around the very things we hold most dear and believe most deeply.
Albert Schweitzer, the well-known theologian, philosopher and physician said: “Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.”
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Often, we don’t even understand ourselves. We don’t know why we do the things we do.
Jesus Understands Misunderstanding—He Suffered it Too
Remember that Jesus knows how you feel, whether it’s about your faith or any other aspect of your life that people don’t understand. I used to doubt that until I realised that Christ created my ability to feel things. Take comfort in the knowledge that God knows you better than you know yourself. He knows how you tick, and he can repair you anytime you ask.
Make some strong Christian friends and take your hurts to Jesus. He’ll bring you peace and understanding you can’t find anywhere else. Few things hurt more than being misunderstood by our close friends. Has that happened to you? The closer they are to us, the greater the pain. When that happens, we discover a lot about ourselves.
Have you noticed that very often misunderstandings start over something small? That’s how it usually happens. Someone didn’t greet us down the street, or they didn’t answer our email, they didn’t invite us to their party, they didn’t show up for an appointment. Or we heard they said something negative about us. Or they didn’t laugh at our jokes. Or they suddenly seem cold when they used to be glad to see us. It’s often about little things, small stuff, petty complaints.
It’s comforting to know that Jesus is familiar with being misunderstood. Jesus was misunderstood by the religious and political leaders of his day. When Jesus came preaching that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand, the religious leaders thought he would bring about a civil war that would jeopardise their religious and political powers. They viewed him as a threat to their security.
Jesus’ enemies put him to death—all because of a misunderstanding about the nature of his being the Messiah and of his kingdom. It was never intended to be an earthly kingdom like Rome. Rather it was intended to be a kingdom where God and Christ would reign in the hearts of men and women everywhere.
So, when it comes to knowing what it means to be misunderstood, Jesus knows. But, Jesus willingly suffered all the indignities of being misunderstood for you and me. He realised that someday—after his resurrection from the dead—the truth would be known. Not everyone would believe his claim to be the Son of God and the Saviour of the world. But to those who would believe it, he would make it possible for them to become children of God.
So, what should you do when people misunderstand you? Ask God for his grace to love them anyway. Romans 12:21 says, “Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.”