“I was watching the devil’s funeral,” she replied.
“What do you mean—‘the devil’s funeral’?” her astonished mother asked.
“Well, I was watching the cars of the funeral go by and counting them and a man next to me said, ‘The poor devil was only sick about a week.’”— Capper’s Weekly
Misunderstanding happens all the time.
Parents struggle to understand their teens.
Co-workers struggle to understand each other.
Church members struggle to understand each other.
The problem with misunderstandings:
Unlike that of the little girl mentioned above, most misunderstandings do not cause us to chuckle. Instead, they start a destructive cycle of disagreements, arguments and quarrels that may last for a short period or even a lifetime.
Misunderstandings can separate friends, relatives, ministries and church families (Acts 15:36-39). They can hinder the work of the Gospel (Philippians 4:2-3), bring about mistreatment (Gen 37:26-27), and persecution (Acts 14:19). They may cause one to quit (John 6:53, 66), as well as lead us into incorrect doctrine (II Peter 3:16).
Misunderstandings happen when we fail to understand correctly, or interpret incorrectly, people’s actions, words, attitudes, or motives, or, when people misjudge our motives and actions. They happen when we experience something that was meant to be taken one way, being seen in quite a different light by someone else.
The first thing we must do when faced with being misunderstood is ask God, “What is my part in this situation?” Is my conscience telling me there was sin on my part (II Cor 1:12-14)? We must take ownership of what wrong we may have done. “Did I lose my temper? Did I say something unkind out of hurt?” If so, then we must confess our wrong and take steps to correct it, immediately. If we are clean before God in the situation, we must still try to keep unity.
How one handles misunderstandings reveals one’s character, maturity, and ability to lead.
The purposes of the misunderstanding test:
- Reveals our own weakness in order to humble us.
Our pride takes a beating when people misunderstand our words, actions and motives. The misunderstanding test reveals areas where pride is an issue; thus, making us prone to self-importance, self-indulgence, self-sufficiency, and self-righteousness.
The three greatest virtues of Christianity, according to St. Augustine:
In today’s “it’s all about me” generation, fuelled by the belief that “if you don’t toot your own horn no one else will,” humility tends to be frowned upon.
Food for thought – Satan mirrors pride. Christ mirrors humility (John 13:4-5).
- Reveals where we are relying on our abilities instead of God.
- Reveals where our communication skills may need improving.
- Reveals where our patience needs to be nurtured and matured.
Often, misunderstandings force us to stop and set aside our plans until there is a resolution. This takes patience. Trying to forget about the situation and let things pass doesn’t work. A misunderstanding, not taken care of, will fester until it eventually erupts to the surface. Scripture continually reminds us that we must take care to keep our relationships with others on good footing (Matt 5:23-24).
Not everyone will agree with us. When we experience this, instead of trying to win or force people to our side, we must learn that the best thing to do is let go and move on. Jesus was probably the most misunderstood person of all time, yet he never forced understanding. He presented His case and then let it go, leaving the individual to choose to comprehend. Some need more time to process things than others. Understanding may eventually come, but it might take longer than we like. This can test our patience!
- Reveals the importance of forgiveness and mercy.
We are all different. We have different educational backgrounds, social statuses, generational views, cultural influences, and personal weaknesses. We must learn to forgive when misunderstandings happen and walk in mercy. Forgiveness is never an option for a believer. It is a command (Col 3:12-13)!
When handling misunderstandings, our goal is not to hurt in return or to try to get even. It is to explain our reasoning as plainly, simply and clearly as we can. If there is anything hurtful to be said, it should be conveyed as gently as possible, in a way that affirms our love and concern for the individual involved.
Everyone will be misunderstood at some point in his or her life. As I think about the times of misunderstanding in my own life, I admit, they were painful — forcing me to run to God for strength and healing. In times that my conscience was clear before God, I had to choose to present my side, then, walk away, allowing the Holy Spirit to defend me in His way and in His time, even though my pride wanted to keep fighting!
“Courage is not limited to the battlefield or the Indianapolis 500 or bravely catching a thief in your house. The real tests of courage are much quieter. They are the inner tests, like remaining faithful when nobody’s looking, like enduring pain when the room is empty, like standing alone when you’re misunderstood.” Charles Swindoll
Failing the misunderstanding test often leaves us defeated and embittered.
Passing it brings us closer to the character of Christ.