Do You Feel Misunderstood?


Do You Feel Misunderstood?

A number of years ago I found myself in that difficult situation of trying to explain myself to a man who was convinced I had wronged him. I thought a simple explanation would clear up the matter because I really did have his interests at heart. But the more I explained, the less he seemed to believe me.

I still remember coming to an insight that has helped me in the years since then: Sometimes we need to accept misunderstanding and just let it be, if there is to be any forward progress in the relationship.

Why are there misunderstandings?

As we look at Biblical examples–Joseph, with his brothers; David, with Saul; Jesus, with His disciples and with the Jewish leaders–we come to realize that there can be a variety of factors contributing to misunderstandings.

  1. Sometimes we are misunderstood because people do not hear us accurately. This is the most simple cause, and can generally be cleared up with further explanation. One time Jesus’ disciples, for example, thought He was scolding them because they had not taken enough food. Actually, His comment, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees,” was a warning to be on guard against thinking and believing like the Pharisees. With further explanation, this misunderstanding was cleared up (Matthew 16:6-12).

  2. Sometimes we are misunderstood by people who have hidden motives that cloud their ability to understand what we are doing or saying. Saul, for example, could not understand that David was trying to honor him. He viewed David as an enemy set on taking the kingdom because Saul’s own heart was angry and vengeful, and he could not trust that David’s was otherwise. When Saul observed that men (some of his own relatives) were defecting to David, he blamed David, rather than considering that his own actions were the cause of men parting ways with him.

  3. Sometimes we feel misunderstood when in truth others understand us better than we think they do. Self-deception is a real possibility. We may think, as the rich young ruler did, that our motives are righteous and pure, when in fact love of money is deeper than love of God; when we are motivated more by self than true service; when we want the praise of men more than the praise of God; when we are being protective of ourselves under the pretense of being humble.

Unfortunately, when someone lays bare our hidden motives, we are prone to “walk away sorrowful,” like the rich young ruler, instead of kneeling in repentance. Some people reading this article may have read the opening illustration, for example, and decided, “Well, I’ll just have to accept being misunderstood,” when really they are being difficult and uncooperative in a relationship.

So how do we avoid this deception?

  1. We must love the truth. Paul wrote about those who “received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.” And he added, “For this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie” (2 Thessalonians 2:10,11). We must love the truth more than our image. We must rather be corrected than always proved right.

  2. We must walk in God’s light. Jesus told Nicodemus, “He that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God” (John 3:21). People who are not willing to be open, not willing to show their deeds, not willing to talk to those over them, are going to be misunderstood. In the process of honest inquiry, silence gives occasion for many misunderstandings.

  3. We must accept misunderstandings only if we are willing to work in the best interests of those who misunderstand us. This is an important test of our motives. Jesus was misunderstood by the Jews of His day, and yet He was willing to die for them. Some people are willing to be silent about being misunderstood, and they think they are following Jesus’ example. But they take a “time will prove you wrong” attitude, or they resort to sulking or being uncooperative, or they remove themselves as far as possible from those who misunderstand them.

This is hardly the Spirit of Christ, who offered redemption for the very ones who rejected Him.

If we are misunderstood, and we…

  1. Pray for those who misunderstand us;

  2. Are kind and respectful toward those who slight us;

  3. Seek the good of those who judge us wrongly;

  4. Protect the reputation of those who slander us;

  5. Privately work in the best interests of those who are working against us, and purposely avoid telling them what we do for them;

  6. Thank the Lord for the purifying effect in our lives when we are misunderstood;

…then we have the Spirit of Jesus, “Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1 Peter 2:23).


–John Coblentz, taken from the March 1998 newsletter of Deeper Life Ministries




Comments are closed.