When we try to defend ourselves we bring out what ever weapons we have in an attempt to make us feel safe. When our character is feeling threatened, we fade into the background as what we hold on to comes to the forefront and is highlighted. We do not like being misunderstood. It challenges what believe about ourselves. It hurts when we are judged. Without the proper armor, we are cut by the remarks of others and carry wounds from their words.
The other day I found myself crying. Not because I was lonely; not because I was sad; not because I was depressed. I was crying because I felt helpless. My actions were misinterpreted. My motivations were in question. My heart was judged. What hurt the most was in my gut, at my core, from the center of my being I knew the truth, yet I did not know how to convey it.
The fear of man rose up inside of me. It appeared so strong, and I felt so weak. It was a powerless feeling that swallowed me whole. I felt unable to share about me. I felt unable to shed light and bring understanding, clarification, and be vulnerably honest about the situation. I struggled to be heard as the screaming presuppositions drowned out my voice. I was crushed as it appeared there was nothing I could do to reveal the perspective from my side of the fence.
My goal in the relationship suddenly shrank to simply being known. I was armed with the best defenses. What had been inferred was vehemently contrary to my viewpoint. How could I get them to accurately see when they assumed they knew what was in my heart? They do not live my life. They do not know what goes on day by day. They do not comprehend “all” the factors I take into consideration as I make decisions.
I wished to tell them how hard I am on myself. I wanted so badly for them to realize I am not cold. I wanted to show them how much I desire to live in humility. I felt my heart breaking as I agonized over how much I sincerely look out for the best interest of others, yet I could not find the words to express those truths. All the phrases that bubbled up fro my heart sounded like excuses in my head. Every well thought out reason only drew attention to my sword and further away from my heart.
Suddenly, I began to judge them in return. The more I thought my words to be invaluable, the more I felt I was wasting my time. I could hear myself making good arguments and watching what I said fall on deaf ears. I went from hurt to anger. “I am so glad others know so much about me and what goes on inside my head. I don’t even need to speak.” Sarcasm wanted to have the last word as I entertained negative thoughts.
The sending and receiving of messages is based on so many factors. Non-verbal and verbal communication is subject to so much interpretation. I should know. I have a degree in communication. I have a plethora of tools in my belt, and still in this situation I did not know how to clearly relay my soul. Misguided, I projected my heart to be so “pure” it should speak for itself. Shouldn’t they know me better than this by now?! However, relationships are messy. There are two (or more) people involved. It is like comparing a boxing match in a ring with a sparring partner to a training session in the gym with a sand bag. Hitting a punching bag that does not swing back is way different than being in the ring with someone who has instincts, training, and a coach.
A person’s normals can come from the instincts we have developed through our cultural, social, and economical upbringing. Someone’s perceptions comes from their “training” (i.e., experiences), and their motives come from beliefs that have been shaped by those they allow to speak into their lives similar to an athletic coach.
When we question the goodness of others we set ourselves up to either attack or defend. When we speculate and reason as to another person’s responses in life, we pridefully assume we comprehend their “why’s”. To save ourselves from a lot of confusion, it becomes paramount to step into humility, and seek to understand rather than be understood. We end up having faith in others, rather than fearing them.
Being vulnerable is scary. It can be awkward, uncomfortable, and it allows for the unknown. Living in freedom may appear like chaos and anarchism. However, when we chose to honor rather than demanding honor we allow for unity, thereby strengthening the relationship instead of tearing it apart. Philosophies are easy to discuss. Its walking them out that takes effort.
Considering people, keeping the peace, and staying true to our hearts is a lot of freaking work.
Humans can be so complicated. Its difficult to want to be around them sometimes. Our narcissistic behavior opens the door to spirits of fear, insecurities, and perpetuation of lies. Our “fight or flight” mechanisms do not instinctively give us the option of staying connected.
So, we have to consciously chose. We have to see value in not retreating. We also have to lay down our weapons, and choose not to war against our fellow comrades in this battle we call life. The best warfare we can “engage” in is to remain “engaged” in relationship, to seek understanding before being understood, to use descriptions rather than persuasion, to seek connection over being right, and to release wholeness rather than hold unforgiveness.
While we will never gain perfection in the battlefield of relationships, we possess the remarkable ability to continually learn and become better communicators. In the end, even after doing our best to communicate our hearts we still run the the risk of being misunderstood. However, the truth does not change simply because someone chooses not to believe it. The world did not suddenly become round because those who thought it was flat changed their minds. The sun did not start revolving around the earth simply because someone thought it did. And ultimately what another thinks about you does not mean you need to change your behavior so they do. The only moral obligation you have in this world is to maintain a clear conscious through open, honest, vulnerable communication, as God is your judge.
Your neighbor is not.