Being misunderstood and judged is one of my worst fears. I pride myself on being forthright and direct in what I do and say, so when someone misunderstands my motives, I am at a loss.
Not too long ago, I had an amazing experience at church — an ordained moment that surprised and encouraged me. It filled me with such life and hope that it felt as though I were on cloud nine. But soon afterwards, someone approached me and questioned my experience. I was taken aback by her words, and I tried to explain myself while holding back tears.
Though her intentions weren’t meant to offend me, her words still hurt, affecting different areas of my life, my thoughts, and my emotions. We prayed together over the situation and over my heart, and I was grateful for those prayers.
When conflict and misunderstandings come my way, I need all the help I can get. Usually when it happens, I tend to over-tell my side of the story so the other person could hopefully know where I’m coming from. And once the shock of being misunderstood wears off, I become angry — angry for having my motives questioned, angry at the whole situation. But that experience and in the days following it, the Holy Spirit reminded me of this truth:
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;
for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
James 1:19-20 (ESV)
My anger wouldn’t have made the situation better. It wouldn’t have produced unity or displayed the love or grace of God. So even though I had unending rebuttals on repeat in my head, I listened to her. Even though I didn’t agree with her conclusions, I could see where she was coming from.
If this had happened ten years ago, I would’ve responded differently, but God has been working on my heart. It was okay for me to be offended, but God’s desire for me wasn’t to stay offended. It takes work to keep bitterness from taking root and blooming into resentment, a hardened heart, and divisiveness, and when we are misunderstood, we need to exchange defensiveness for His truth.
God is our defender. He created us and therefore knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows our strengths and our weaknesses. He knows the things we admit to ourselves and the things that lie in our blind spots. I walked away from the situation asking God if anything that had been said of me were true, and if so, that I wanted to give them to Him and let Him refine me.
Conflict and misunderstandings are all part of being in authentic community with one another. They are a way for us to grow as people and as believers. My prayer is that we learn to respond as Jesus does and grow in our likeness to Him as we do.