Challenges, Communication

4 Things to Consider the Next Time You Feel Misunderstood

A few weeks back, Selena and I had a new style of argument. I guess I’ll call it “repressed yelling” (with an infant at home, volume is now a luxury we can’t afford). Funny thing though, as I write this I don’t even remember what we were arguing about – it must have been something trivial. I only truly recall something about feeling misunderstood.

I didn’t care about what was actually being said (otherwise I would remember). I only cared about being understood. Even now I remember how frustrated I felt when Selena misunderstood me (and how frustrated she felt when I misunderstood her). Being misunderstood is perhaps one of life’s most frustrating occurrences.

This is our human tendency isn’t it? We want so badly not to be misunderstood. We wear clothes, say certain things, purchase things, and make life decisions based on defining ourselves to the world. Whole movements are devoted to disseminating understanding and diffusing misunderstanding. These movements surround human rights issues, animal rights issues, political agendas, worldviews, and the list goes on (Christianity included).

We’re Not Immune, Not in the Least

If you follow our Facebook page closely you may have seen two semi-controversial posts recently. The controversy was entirely unintended and was a result of me not understanding our audience and being misunderstood by our readers. I won’t mention details here since, frankly, I don’t want to perpetuate the misunderstanding. I’ve consciously chosen to keep the posts live as a learning moment for us and our readers. Feel free to check them out if you’d like.

Being misunderstood, especially online, grieves me more than most things. It can take days to shake off a heated debate (social media debates are largely unfruitful anyways, so I try not to engage too much).

As our audience grows I know this phenomenon will be magnified. We’re bound to be “called to the carpet” on what we say. This is a sobering reminder that teachers (which I believe includes writers/bloggers such as ourselves) are held to a higher standard – by God and by those taught. (James 3)

Handling Being Misunderstood

I’ve been thinking about how to handle being misunderstood to help me cope with the inevitable scrutiny. I’ve also been contemplating ways to handle being misunderstood the next time it happens in our marriage.  Here’s what I’m learning:

1: Find your identity & security only in Christ

Christ understands you. He sees you from afar (Psalm 138:6), he designed and crafted you from within (Psalm 139:13-14), and he knows what it’s like to be human and to be tested (Hebrews 4:15). I hope this doesn’t roll off your back as cliche. You are KNOWN. This is the first point because the rest will flow from this. If you know who you are in Christ, you can proceed with that knowledge and his perspective in mind.

For example, maybe “being right” isn’t important at this moment. Maybe you just need to extend grace because your spouse hurting or not in a place to be corrected.

2: Keep perspective

Arguments have a way of getting the blood flowing. When you’re in the middle of an argument where you’re feeling misunderstood, you want to get things off your chest. It’s crucial to keep a cool head. Remember the context and the ‘bigger picture’. This takes a strong person to step away emotionally to really try and see things how Christ sees them.

Take a deep breath, ask Jesus for clarity and perspective, and follow his lead. There were times when Jesus unexpectedly overturned tables in the temple (Matthew 21) and others when he unexpectedly extended grace (ex. the adulterous woman in John 8).

3: Stay humble & teachable

Maybe you’re misunderstanding more than you’re being misunderstood? Don’t automatically assume you’re right. Turn the magnifying glass inward, check your own motives, thoughts, and intentions. If you realize you were wrong in what you said or how you said it, simply apologize. Nothing diffuses an argument more than expressing that you were mistaken and you’re sorry.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt the Holy Spirit convict me mid-argument. I’ve apologized a ton. I’m still working on it, but staying humble and teachable will help get to the core of the argument instead of dancing around its symptoms.

4: Practice wisdom

Not everything is worth fighting for at every moment. Pick your battles and pick your timing with the utmost scrutiny. Even the most comprehensive explanations and justifications are horrible when applied at a bad time. If you’re misunderstood by your spouse on a non-crucial issue, maybe let it slide. Give them grace instead of setting the record straight.Mature people understand that not everything is black & white.

There’s lots of gray in the negotiable things and how you navigate differences in opinion on negotiable things can make or break your success in the big things. What good is it getting your way on something trivial if you crush your spouse’s heart in the process?

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been learning. I hope it helps you, our incredible readers. By the way, we’re extremely thankful for you.

Question: What’s one way you handle being misunderstood in your marriage?

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  • I pray for his ability to understand me & for me to understand him as minds are deteriorating.

  • Jo

    We’re newly weds and are still stumbling and stepping on toes learning this ‘when two become one’ dance, gaining more grace as we go.

    I’m thankful for the Holy Spirit which convicts us both but we’re also learning often we have to literally call a time out when we’re arguing. We’re both sensitive in our own right, newly married and trying to do our best so it’s easy to go from 0 to 60 in a blink when we feel misunderstood. Time outs force us to take a moment to think about more than the little piece of ground we’re fighting for and give us a second to breathe, find some clarity and perspective.

  • Jesse Ryan

    My wife and I write letters to each other one issues were we feel misunderstood. It’s gives us each a chance to think about what we want to say and share our feelings in a non confrontational way. It also says to each other that the issue is important enough for us to sit and write, which creates a new space for sharing and understanding each other.

    • Very good advice Jesse! Writing to one another is a great way to force yourselves to articulate what you’re feeling without letting momentary emotions harm healthy communication. (sorry, I’m just seeing your comment here)

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  • Lauren Wilkins

    If you just look at the points, without reading everything else, this is just great advice for LIFE!!! Thank you so much!

  • Libby

    Something I’ve realized and that still blows my mind is that God understands me EVEN BETTER than I do! It’s so hard to let Him by my justifier because I want to show what I good job I can do. But I never get it right when I take the reins! He is the best place to find identity and security.

  • Evan

    I get this wrong all the time.. Thank you for this post.. The majority of our a arguments are based on my need to be understood.. “What good is it getting your way on something trivial if you crush your spouse’s heart in the process?” such truth is undeniable.