The Harm of Misunderstanding
One of the biggest and underrated problems we face in this world is misunderstanding. We are constantly faced with being misunderstood and misunderstanding others. Here are three ways this harms us and three solutions to this dangerous and hurtful issue. Note: this is not talking about liars, sins, or deception. Those should never be listened to or accepted as they are from the devil and not from God. We are to be very careful about who we trust, hang out with, and confined in.
"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world. You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error." - 1 John 4:1-6
He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed. - Proverbs 13:20
In our day to day relationships with family, friends, coworkers, school friends, or our neighbors, misunderstanding happens constantly. Through misunderstandings, relationships become estranged, broken, toxic, or even hurtful which can lead to bitterness, resentment, judgement, and unforgiveness. There are moments when we misunderstand our parents, siblings, close friends, acquaintances, a boss, a manager, a coworker, church members, peers, or neighbors. In these moments arguments can irrupt, emotions can rage or become sensitive, stubbornness rears its ugly head, and instead of seeing the other person's side, we hold our fort and remain hardheaded about what we think they said and meant. Sometimes we are too blind to see the intentions of the person because we have only heard what we thought they said. Even murder is sometimes done because of a misunderstanding.
Misunderstanding doesn't just happen to people close to us, it has a rippling effect and because it happens to many people, it harms the nation. Groups of people misunderstand other groups, people choose sides instead of calmly listening to facts, and hardness spreads from one heart to the other. People fight, loot, murder, abuse, bully, riot, and protest due to rash decisions, blocked ears, blinded eyes, and poisoned hearts. Not all of these issues happen because of misunderstanding but misunderstanding does cause these issues. Disunity then happens and can tear and destroy people and the country.
Misunderstanding also harms globally. When we don't understand others, different cultures, different ways of speaking, different mannerisms, then harm can poison other nations. Misunderstanding of a leader can cause other nations to think ill of the country and therefore have preconceived ideas that will relate to mistreating those citizens, stopping trade, causing conflict, and even to start wars.
If we all took just a few moments to truly listen to another person and let them say what they are trying to say, then many misunderstandings would be solved or never created. Carefully and intently listen to a person's words and more importantly the meaning behind the words, if we have a question or want to clarify something do so calmly after they finish speaking. As the Bible says, "So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God." (James 1:19-20). We all need to slow down a bit and instead of just hearing another person, completely listen to them. This means to stop that voice in your head that starts thinking about what you will say next or how they are wrong, focus completely on their words.
As stated briefly in solution 1, understanding a person's intentions is highly important. Words matter, but we are human and sometimes we say the wrong thing or use the wrong choice of words that misrepresent what we are truly meaning or trying to get across. Instead of just listening to another person, we also need to understand them and hear their heart. This is not an assumption of what the person is meaning but a true understanding of where they are coming from and their intent. If you are not good at understanding others, just be patient with them and listen. We all have different talents and skills, some are better at relating and understanding others and some are not. But we all can practice God's Word and love others. If we take the time to fully understand other people, so much hurt and heartache, pain, broken relationships, anger, and strife would cease.
After we listen and understand the person, we need to relate to them. Put yourself in their shoes. If they are from another country, research or do some quick learning about their culture to see why they say or think the way they do. If they are from the same country think about how they grew up or how life was/is for them. If we related to others and thought "what would I do if I was in their shoes" then more unity and brotherhood/sisterhood would exist.
Sometimes someone will not listen to you, they don't want to truly hear you but already have decided how they think of you and what they believe you will or are saying. When moments happen when the person interrupts you, doesn't listen to you, or does not understand you the best thing to do is be silent and move on because they will not understand no matter how much you try to get them to see the truth or to see your intention.
It is honorable for a man to stop striving, since any fool can start a quarrel. - Proverbs 20:3
Jesus was constantly misunderstood, why would it be any different for us, believers and followers of Christ?
Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. - John 8:42-45
We need to be kinder, more caring, more understanding, patient, loving, and forgiving. My prayer is that we all take time this week to practice these three solutions and do a better job of listening and understanding the meaning behind what others are saying.