On Understanding (Revised)

REVISED: Preparing this post as a column for publication in a local newspaper, I did some rewrite and minor revision.)

Being misunderstood is something that happens to all of us...

There are times I'm misunderstood because I've spoken too quickly, too slowly, rashly or just plain foolishly.

Sometimes I'm misunderstood because others’ feelings or concerns, unrelated to my words, obscure what I'm trying to say.

There are times I'm misunderstood because I simply haven't adequately considered, prepared or communicated what I want to say.

Sometimes I'm misunderstood because I've failed to understand the person I'm speaking with.

Sometimes I'm misunderstood because my ego or my agenda has overwhelmed my message.

And, truth be told, sometimes I'm misunderstood because I truly don't know what I'm talking about.

And misunderstanding others is something all of us do...

There are times I misunderstand others because I've only half-listened or paid no attention at all to the person speaking to me.

Sometimes my own feelings and concerns keep me from understanding what I'm hearing.

There are times I misunderstand because I'm predisposed to hear only what I want to hear, what I expect to hear, what I hope to hear.

Sometimes I misunderstand because I'm busy listening to my own thoughts while someone is speaking.

There are times I misunderstand because I'm so closed to what I'm hearing.

And sometimes I misunderstand because I don't have the knowledge I need to understand what I’m hearing.

I know I’m slow to confront the prejudice, stubbornness and pride within that lead to my misunderstanding others.

And all too often I fail to see that those who misunderstand me do so with no malice or ill will.

Misunderstanding erodes relationships and spoils trust.

Unresolved misunderstanding can lead to confusion, mistrust, grudges, resentments and hurt. Misunderstanding can lead us to make enemies of our neighbors.

Perhaps most critical is the reality of how misunderstanding clouds our thinking and obscures what’s true.

Understanding is the posture of humility, the attitude of docility, the inclination to respect and the graciousness of acceptance...

When the road of discourse is freely shared, understanding can be a path to what’s true...

Knowledge of the truth and the gift of wisdom are understanding's end and promise...

Understanding is always truth’s servant and never its master…

Here’s an examination of conscience to help fine-tune our appreciation of the value and importance of understanding:
Do I listen with a desire to learn, to discern and to understand?

Do I speak with sincere respect for those who hear me?

Do I listen as intently to others as I hope others will listen to me?

Do I speak the truth charitably when it calls others to accountability?

Do I listen with acceptance when others speak a discomforting truth to me?

Do I recognize the impact of my own limitations on how I understand others?

Do my words and tone invite others to consider and understand what I have to say?

Do I listen patiently to others who disagree with me?

Do I speak patiently to those who misunderstand me?

Do I remember that some people have been misunderstood all their lives?

When it seems someone else will "just never understand,"
do I ask myself if I'm the one who's being stubborn?

Do I seek to understand as intently and sincerely as I seek to be understood?

Do I understand that there’s always more for me to understand?

Do I know how to converse without needing to convince?

Do I know how to debate without needing to defeat?

Do I forgive those who misunderstand me?

Do I ask forgiveness of those I've misunderstood?

Do I open myself to truths, old and new:
truths I've not known or have not understood; truths I've rejected?

Do I allow what’s true to correct my misunderstanding?

Do I seek to understand so that I might gain wisdom?

Do I seek, do I pray to be more understanding?
Mutual understanding can be a path to the truth, a path we need to learn to walk together. Being misunderstood is something that happens to all of us and misunderstanding others is something all of us do. Growth in the grace of understanding is something we all need to pray for - so let us pray…

Lord, you made and understand all things. Help us to understand one another as you understand each of us. With your Spirit's gifts, help us to grow in understanding and guide us, together, to your truth. Amen.

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  1. anne...the other anneJune 30, 2010 at 6:15 AM

    This was what i needed to see after lying awake most of the night, with a heavy heart knowing i was misunderstood and not heard.

    The part of your examen that hit home was "Do I know how to converse without needing to convince?" Sadly the answer is rarely. It has been my challenge because to be understood; although not necessarily agreed with can turn my heart in an instant and allow me to be who i truly am. It is almost as tho my very life depends on it.

    The truth i am learning is the world will not always offer me understanding. Even those i love and would like to count on will not; I have to find it on my own. I have to go deep and learn to give myself the understanding i seek from others and let that be enough. Not easy to do!!!

    Finally as i drifted off i handed it too God; today i know i must accept what is and work toward moving on.

    Thanks CP, for all the times i try hearing God's voice and find it in your words!

  2. What can I say? I simply my gratitude that you posted this.]


  3. Did you know about the Cambridge Police Dept. Report that was made public today? Talk about hitting the mark! The lesson of misunderstanding the other was lived out on national TV last July and we need a report to tell us about it.

  4. Powerful post, CP!

    Thank you.



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