The more you try to explain, the worse it gets. Ever been there? The more you try to bridge the gap, the wider the gap becomes. One of my greatest struggles in this world is the angst I get if someone misjudges me. Makes.Me.Crazy. There is a hilarious episode of Everybody Loves Raymond titled “Somebody Hates Raymond.” The entire episode Ray is trying to figure out why this guy hates him so much and how Ray can clear the air and make things right. Doesn’t happen. The writers were able to hit on the average Joe’s struggle with rejection over misunderstanding. “If they only knew my heart!” Or, “If I could just explain, I know I could make him understand.” And the always useful, “If we could just sit down and talk…” But sometimes, for whatever reasons, there will be people in our lives that simply want to keep their negative opinions of us. Why? I have no idea. But it happens and I guess the upside of it all is that it happened to Jesus too…a lot. As Jesus Followers we are called by God to be conformed to the image of Christ and most of the time that happens through suffering, “…that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His image…” (Philippians 3:10).
You know how Scripture tells us that Jesus was in all ways tempted? You know how Scripture tells us that He understands our burdens, pain, and most of all our humanity? (Hebrews 4:15). Well, He does. And He especially understands rejection. He was falsely accused; He was misquoted; He was wrongly labeled; hateful and evil motives were assigned to His good deeds. Hmmm…any of that sound familiar? Suffering the injustice of being wrongly accused and misunderstood actually allows us to participate in the sufferings of Christ. Make sense? These situations afford us the opportunity to be formed into the image of Christ and that, well, is a good thing. And it is a thing that I myself have not yet yielded too. UGH. It is hard.
Cami Otman, MS, a contributor to Psychology Today writes, “One of the hardest burdens to bear is being misunderstood by other people. All of us at one point or another experience looking into the eyes of another person and realizing that he or she simply does not see us the way we truly are, and probably never will. How you respond to being misunderstood will be the difference between spending a good deal of time trying to correct other people’s misperceptions of you or being free to carry on with your life no matter what others think of you.” What? You mean I can actually go on living my life even if there are people in the world who do not like me? Who have misjudged me? Who have a wrong opinion of me? Is that for real?!?
Otman goes on, “Whether those who misunderstand you are strangers or family members, you have to choose what will drive your behavior: your own conscience or your fear of what others might think of you. Choose your conscience. It lives inside of you and goes everywhere you go. Tolerating the fact that others believe you are dishonest/unkind/stingy/rude/hypocritical (fill in the blank) is not easy. It takes a great deal of self-control not to retrace your steps and try to constantly explain yourself so that people might see you the way you truly are. But trust me, you’ll never finish the race if you do that.”
Oh boy. And finishing the race is kind of what it is all about, isn’t it? What does the Apostle Paul say (back to Philippians 3), “…but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Then Paul says in Acts 20, referring to great trials and tribulations, “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”
It is tough and I sure haven’t learned the lesson. But I believe at some point in all of our lives we have to reach the decision that there are things here in this world we just simply cannot fix. Check with the loved ones around you who know you and whose walk with God you respect and ask them, “Am I wrong here?” Ask the Lord to reveal any hidden sin or bitterness in your heart and always keep your heart open to any reconciliation that may manifest in your life. Because ultimately there is only one opinion that truly matters: God’s. And eventually, maybe only in the sweet-by-and-by, it will all get worked out. Peace.