¡°HANDLING MISUNDERSTANDING¡± By Pastor YAU
Text: 1 Samuel 18:5-9; Psalms 140:1-7 September 15, 2013
1) Facing the suspicious look: After living in Texas for more than 15 years, you can't help but pick up some habit and custom of the southern culture. When we, a mission team, went to the Big Apple city of New York for a short term mission in early 1990s, we stayed at a high rise hotel in Manhattan during the trip. As I entered the elevator one morning, I greeted the people who were already in it by saying: ¡°Good morning!¡± I was surprised that not one person greeted me back. I was even embarrassed to see some faces stared at me like: What do you want? Or why are you so friendly? My good will greeting was misunderstood as being suspicious. For the rest of the week, I was forced to adapt the ¡°cold heart, stone face¡± of the local culture: Never see anyone or greet anyone in the elevator, the hallways, the lobby or anywhere. No wonder the faces of most New Yorkers aged so fast.
2) Faced baseless misunderstanding: Being misunderstood can be suffocating and devastating or even deadly. There are many stories on this in the Bible. David was misunderstood by his brothers when he traveled far to bring food and supplies to them. (1 Samuel 17:17-30) This happened in many domestic rivalries. When he helped King Saul won the battle against the Philistines, he was misunderstood by the king to the point he almost lose his life. (1 Sam 17-18) This is like what we face in the work place: your success became the target of envy and jealousy of your fellow workers. You may become the target of bullying, gossip, boycott, retaliation or even lose our job.
HOW MISUNERSTANDINGS HAPPEN: No one knows it all. They varied from case to case. Here are some of the more common reasons.
1) Something you did with good intention: Like I was trying to be friendly in greeting other in a strange city, but was misinterpreted as if I did it for some unseemly intention. This is the most common reason misunderstandings happened. People use their background and life experience to interpret our words and deeds in ways contrary to what we meant.
2) Combined with incidental situation: David did win the battle for King Saul but he didn't expect a huge welcoming celebration staged by women dancing and singing. David had nothing to do with that but it caught the attention of the king that led to Saul's fear and jealousy David couldn't understand.
3) Hidden reasons in people's mind: Some misunderstand us from pure hearts. Others did that from hidden reasons. The jealousy of David's brothers rooted from the time in their home where Samuel didn't anoint any of them to be king except David. (16:6-13) King Saul was just ripped off of his blessing of God as king because of his rebellion. (15:17-31) These people already had an ill feeling against David, they would interpret anything good from David as reason of their misunderstanding. They wanted to do that.
4) They don't care about the facts: David was tending the flock when Samuel was in his house ready to anoint a king. He had no intention to be king. He was send to the battle field to bring food and supplies for his brother by order of his father. He was obedient to his father to do so. His faith in God enraged him to hear the insults of Goliath. He didn't come and wasn't prepared to get into a battle. But those who wanted to misinterpret his intention didn't care the facts. They either twisted the facts or exaggerated the situation to fit their purpose to smear David's intention and reputation.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF MISUNDERSTANDING:
1) It comes when we are unprepared: Almost all misunderstanding come to us without any warning and caught us off guard. We never have any idea they will think, interpret the words we said or acts we did the way they interpret. You are in total vulnerable and defenseless condition. It is a very sickening situation we are forced to face.
2) It creates suspicion on both sides: It begins with the suspicion of those who initiate the misunderstanding. Then we are suspicious of their intention in doing that. Suspicion is the best weapon to destroy trust between people in family, at work, among friends and even the church. When you are suspicious of people's intention, there is no way to build cordial relationship.
3) It demoralizes and angers people: Being misunderstood, either from pure heart or vicious intent is never a good feeling. It causes us to feel numb in our mind and feeling defeated. It cause injury in the emotion sometimes leads to self retreat from friendship or duties. We want to stop doing anything. We want to give up. David ran away from his brothers and Saul.
4) It turns good things to bad ending: David was trying to help Saul. He did all he could to serve the king, even after he became insane by the evil spirit. David risked his life to defeat the enemy so Saul could continue to be king. All these suppose to contribute to a sweet, long cordial relationship. But due to jealousy and misunderstanding, Saul saw David as his enemy and sought to kill him. Many otherwise sweet and cordial relationship were destroyed to irreversible situation because of jealousy and misunderstanding.
HOW TO HANDLE MISUNDERSTANDING? (Psalm 140) It is very hard to handle misunderstanding, willful or not. There are no perfect solution to solve this problem. Let's see how King David handled his situation.
1) Bring them to God, not man: ¡°Oh Lord, I say to you: You are my God. Hear, O Lord, my cry for mercy.¡± (140:6) When you are the target or victim of misunderstand or rumor, the best way is not trying to find who says what or to explain to all people the truth. You can't do that because you don't know whom you need to explain to or if they will listen to you and believe your words. King David chose to ask God, bring his case before God and ask God to hear him with mercy. When misunderstanding comes your way, mostly it come with no mercy but to hurt you. Instead of trying to explain to man, bring it to God. He will understand you with mercy.
2) Allow God to fight for you: ¡°The sovereign Lord is my strong defender who shields my head in the day of battle.¡± (140:7) In American legal system, all suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty. But in the case of mis-understanding or rumors, you are presumed guilty in people's mind until you can prove you are innocent. This is an uphill battle and only very few can do that. So, allow God to fight your battle, to defend you and to vindicate you. Finally, David found his peace in all his trouble: ¡°I know that the Lord secured justice for the poor and uphold the cause of the needy.¡± (140:12)
3) Stay away from false accusers: ¡°Now what have I done, said David. Can't I ever speak? He then turned away to someone else.¡± (1 Samuel 17:29-30) See how David handled his brother who accused him with no evidence. When someone wants to misunderstand you or smear you with evil intent, don't try to argue your case, just leave him alone, walk away and do your business. In David's case, he had more important thing to do: killed that blasphemer of God, Goliath. That is much more important than argue with his brother.
4) Learn from past experience: ¡°Like one who seizes a dog by its ears is a passer-by who meddles in a quarrel not his own.¡± (Proverbs 26:17) Looking at David's case: Is there anyway he might avoid misunderstanding? May be. He could have asked his father to send food and supplies to his brothers by a servant or other brothers instead of himself. He did not need to fight Goliath, it wasn't his battle to fight. If he didn't send the food or didn't get involved with the fight, no trouble from his brothers or King Saul. Sometimes we get into trouble with people because we get involved with them or things that are none of our business. Unless God specifically calls you to get involved with the business of someone or something, don't try to be a hero. I have terrible experience on this in the past.
1) For those who misunderstand: All of us have experience of misunderstand others or being misunderstood by others. So it isn't too difficult to understand the ill effect of this common but serious problem in everyday life. If you have problem of knowing the truth or intention of another person, his words or acts, don't hold on to your ¡°subjective¡± imagination. When we filter words and acts of others through our ¡°frame of reference¡±, chances are we don't really know or understand the truth or intention of that person. Instead of resorting to the risks of misunderstanding, find a way to ask and clarify your doubt. Take misunderstanding seriously and try your best to avoid them. Without finding the truth, it may lead to breaking up of cordial relationship or other more serious damages between you and people close to you.
2) For those being misunderstood: This is a more difficult situation. If you are being misunderstood, best way is to clarify the matter in person or any direct explanation, hoping to get it over. If it has become a rumor by some deeply rooted vicious attack, bring it to God for He will shield you and defend you from harm as he did for David. Never fight back fire with fire for it can only push that matter to a higher degree of conflict. Be careful when you make a decision, give an opinion or taking any action that may lead others to misunderstand you. Stay away from those who are good in twisting fact, making waves and gossip anything and everything. Stay calm in prayer, present your case to God for protection and guidance.