Sunday, August 1, 2004

Understanding, and Being Understood

For a while I have really wrestled with feelings like, "Why don't people understand me?" "Am I the only one that sees these things?" "Am I going crazy?" These thoughts have been quite a source of anxiety. Recently though, I think that I have come to a change of heart regarding this issue. I realized something — people that do not understand me are not my responsibility. In other words, I should not take it personally if someone either does not understand me, and gives up trying to understand me. At first glance this may sound arrogant. And, I'm willing to consider that possibility. Here is my take on it, though.

I consider it my responsibility to do everything in my power to love people, which entails understanding them, serving them, and doing my best to grow in my capacity to do so. If I do not understand someone, it is my responsibility and burden to put forth the effort to understand that person. After all, it was Jesus who extended himself from heaven all the way to earth, all the way to death, even death on a cross, to "understand" me, to reach me. Therefore in imitation of Christ, it is my responsibility to understand others. Of course, it is also my right to decide to give up trying to understand a person, although at that point I believe I would not be imitating Christ's example. On the other hand, if a person does not understand me, I can only do my best to explain my heart and my motivation. If after that he/she still does not understand me, and ceases the pursuit of understanding me, then that is not my problem. It is tempting in such situations to feel that somehow I am to blame, I am off the map, I am crazy. And I think much of my anxiety has been tied to this idea. But this simply is not my responsibility.

A parallel idea is that of being romantically interested in someone. Imagine that I begin to have feelings for someone — believable enough, no? Now, imagine that girl finds out, but the feelings are not reciprocated (too believable, unfortunately). Now, the temptation is to feel insecure, inadequate, less than a man, not good enough, worthless, and any other diminutive adjective you can think of. But, why should I feel this way? It is not my job to get people to like/love me. As Lisa Nichols said during teen camp, "What others think of me, is not my business." All that I can do is be myself. If a person chooses not to love/understand me for who I am, it is his/her loss.

This is all wonderful theory, of course. It is certainly more difficult to actually think this way and act accordingly.

1 comment:

Victor said...

It's The Friendly! said...

I like that quote from Lisa Nichols. I'll try and remember that...