February 23, 2015

Please Don't Let Me be Misunderstood

I bought a print of a unique painting that I appreciate. It is abstract and hard to describe, visualize and understand unless you know something about the behind-the-scenes work. The artistry is not perfect, due to limitations. But, when I visited the place where the artist creates the original paintings, talked with his assistant and learned more about the group that benefits from the artwork projects, I wanted that print.

I can see why people might not "get" that painting. In the same way, I observe that some might misunderstand their pastor and his wife. People don't always see what goes on as a pastor follows his calling. The way he does his work and how he spends his time appear abstract compared to what is familiar. When people expect certain things to happen in a certain way, and the pastor disappoints them with the end product, they might misunderstand him. But, the pastor's wife knows some of the backstory. Although she is aware of his shortcomings, she sees the daily sacrifice her husband makes for the church and how he is motivated to benefit the congregation. When her husband is misunderstood, the pastor's wife is affected, too.

Some advice for the times when you feel misunderstood
1) Most of the time, most of the church members are quite supportive of the pastor's ministry. It is helpful to keep reminders of that. Someone told me that she keeps a "blue file." It is a blue file folder filled with letters of encouragement and keepsakes of special events. When she is feeling "blue," she takes the file out, reminds herself of God's blessings and thanks Him.

2) Disagreements will happen in a fallen world. Realize that even God's people can be inconsiderate and thoughtless toward you. You have hurt others, as well. When I feel the sting of being misunderstood, I think of past times when I quickly judged others without knowing the whole picture. Seeing my own sin of misunderstanding can motivate me to repentance and awareness of how I should treat others.

3) A sinless Jesus was criticized and misunderstood many times (e.g., Matthew 12:1-13). Taking your hurt to God in prayer is helpful. Ask Him for love toward those who you think are mistreating you. Pray that the Holy Spirit will show you if your sin has contributed to this problem. Ask for strength and willingness to change, as needed.

4) Sometimes, people just need more information to foster understanding. I have a theory that if you don't know much about someone's life, you fill in the gaps with speculation. Communication can counteract that. In my church, the leaders call a meeting to explain any weighty actions they take, such as church discipline, and are willing to answer tough questions. My husband writes a blog and church newsletter column to tell people what he is thinking about the Christian life. Occasionally, he mentions a struggle he is facing. Both of us attend church social events, have people in our home, stay around after services for fellowship, share prayer requests, pitch in on church work days and try to show that we are putting on the new "man," just like everyone else.

As much as I get indignant about people making assumptions about me, you would think I wouldn't assume anything. But I do, especially with strangers. For example, I once saw a woman sitting by herself in a large, city church I was visiting. I thought she looked poorer than those sitting around her. Perhaps she was shunned by them. I felt sorry for her, thinking that because her husband was probably not a Christian, she came alone to the service. Later, I found out that she was the wife of a well-known pastor on the staff, and he was preaching that night! Maybe I should stick to interpreting paintings.

A note from Patsy: Legally, I can't reproduce the artwork I wrote about. But you can see it and read about it on this webpage. I think you will be surprised.

1 comment:

  1. There's usually two stories that go into every misunderstanding. The person who misunderstands me because she doesn't have my whole story probably has a story behind her reaction as well. It may be that a similar situation was the occasion of great hurt in her past and she is "gun-shy." As I'm typing, I'm considering something in my own life in a new light. Thanks for this!


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