Have you ever heard any of these?
Oh, I was waving at the person behind you, sorry.
Wow. I had no idea you thought I felt that way. I just don’t see our relationship going that direction.
Or how about……
I actually wanted to find out if they wanted to help with this project. Do you have their phone number?
Ouch. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a phrase like that, you know that it’s amazing how quickly our mood can go from happiness, enthusiasm, or even being flattered to a hideous twist of disappointment, embarrassment, jealousy, anger, pride, sadness, and confusion. Of course, if we’re really good, we try to play it off with a laugh. Or maybe we give some discombobulated explanation that doesn’t really makes sense and runs on and on embarrassingly long, kind of like this sentence, only making us feel worse after we finally finish. Even if it sounds believable, the way our left eye keeps twitching as we talk is a dead give away.
Have you ever been misread, misquoted, or misunderstood?
Even when we have the most honorable intentions, they can be misunderstood and there may be no easy way out. It happens. King David encountered this when he sent a group of his men out to show sympathy to a king named Hunan, whose father, the king of the Ammonites, had just died. His intentions were pure. He was showing sympathy to King Hunan due to the passing of his father but when David’s men arrived, Hunan’s commanders told him that David was secretly spying out the land so that he could attack and overthrow it. Hunan listened to his commanders and took David’s men, shaved off half of their beard, and cut their robes off at their buttocks. Then, he sent them away.*
“Walk behind me and hide me, will you?”
“No! Your robe is shorter than mine!”
“Hey man, I didn’t know you have stretch marks.”
Talk about embarrassing……
David had the purest of intentions but they were misread and ended up causing a great battle and much death and pain on top of the embarrassment his messengers went through. If we are not careful, being on either end of a misread intention can turn into a war that we never saw coming. If we were on the receiving end, the devil can use pride and anger to form a wall between us and the other person, in turn creating a wall between us and God. If we were the one misunderstood, we may find ourselves under attack by the one we offended and by their “followers” who decide we are guilty before hearing details.
So, how do you avoid misunderstandings?
Well, we could have a team of lawyers following us around, providing a disclaimer of our every conversation. Maybe something like this:
Jim: (to group of people) “We are starting a small group study on the Book of John. If you would like to attend, please sign up in the foyer!”
Jim’s Lawyers: “The “Small Group Study” mentioned by Jim, hereby referred to as “Group”, is targeted at, but not limited to, 10 persons. These 10 persons are encouraged to attend each meeting but attendance is not mandatory. If said participant attends all meetings but does not feel they have received the full value of the experience, there will be no refunds, as no financial compensation is being rendered for said “Group” meetings. If anyone in the “Group” says anything with which you disagree, Jim does not necessarily support and/or share the beliefs of that individual. Attending this “Group” is strictly voluntary and in no way guarantees entrance into Heaven or any other future bonus.”
Obviously this isn’t the best idea.
While avoiding misread intentions is impossible, what we are able to do is make sure that our intentions are always pure. We should be clear with our answers and always think, plan, and act with integrity. If we find that we have offended someone, make quick restoration. The bible has a lot to say about restoration among our brothers and sisters in Christ. So, what will you do if you find yourself in this situation? Here’s a few suggestions….
1. Approach the person
2. Apologize for the misunderstanding.
3. Apply biblical restoration techniques.
Cut their clothes.
Shave off half their beard.
A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for a time of adversity. (Proverbs 17:17 NIV)
As iron sharpens iron,
so one person sharpens another. (Proverbs 27:17 NIV)
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV)
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:2 NIV)
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, (James 1:19 NIV)
*The story about David and his men can be found in 2 Samuel chapter 10.
I am misunderstood often. It’s either EVERYONE I talk to doesn’t get it or I communicate poorly, I can’t tell which. Sure in print I can. When I can review it and edit it. Thanks for the advice on making it right, good stuff.
Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to review and edit our spoken words? Thanks Ken
I vote for the lawyer tagging along beside me. I tend to ALWAYS put my foot in my mouth. Add to this dilemma the confusion of translating what I have to say into another language, and I’m a walking disaster at times. 🙂
I can imagine it’s very challenging with the language barrier! One word misinterpreted can change your entire meaning!