When Others Misunderstand You

protest

I got a call from a number I didn’t recognize. I answered. On the other end was an official. She spent several minutes insinuating something about me that was untrue. It really bothered me. More than I care to admit (although I’m writing it here, so you know how it niggled me.)

Later it occurred to me that this woman and her words rattled something deeper than a simple bureaucratic manner. It rattled my heart. Why?

Because I value integrity. I value doing the right thing, even when no one’s watching. I have a healthy fear of wrongdoing, and I’m passionate about being a good citizen, law abider, friend, worker.

The insinuations reminded me of another time when a friend completely misread my heart. The repercussions of her words still hurt. Deep. There are nights I have dreams about her and wake up afraid. In the melee, I realized quickly that I could say not-one-thing that would convince her of my heart or show her my innocence. So I stopped talking, trying to convince her of my innocence. I cried instead. I gave my reputation to Jesus to manage, as I’m not so great at doing that task. I remember the release I felt when I realized this truth about God: He sees.

He sees my heart. He sees my motives (and there are plenty of impure ones mixed together in a jumble of confusion and integrity). He sees the bureaucrat’s heart. He discerns my friend’s heart. He knows my desires. It’s completely freeing to know that even if someone else doesn’t believe me, I don’t need to “protesteth too much.” I can rest. God sees. He knows. He rewards those who are faithful in little.

It also reminds me not to be so quick to pass judgment on someone’s motives or heart, not to accuse blindly, not to jump to conclusions without patiently listening and asking questions, not to jump to bitterness before I have a chance to exercise forgiveness. Bitterness, if I let it take root, does one awful thing. It makes me blind to the heart of another. It assigns negative intent to that person. It only sees the bad, oblivious to the good.

There have been far too many times in my life when I’ve listened to gossip about someone else. If that’s the first thing I hear about him/her, it forever colors my view. The older and wiser I get, the less I give weight to the first thing I hear. I try to meet people fresh, try to draw them out and discover their heart. Not always, but I try.

Because I know how painful it is to be misunderstood.

I thank Jesus, though, that He truly understands what it’s like to be misunderstood, to be insinuated against, to be judged wrongly. Consider this from John 2:24-25: “But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.”

He let God the Father hold His reputation. He understood the fickleness of the crowds. He felt the weight of their judgments, which ultimately led to His death.

So if you’re in that place where others are insinuating, press into Jesus. Give Him your worries and fears. He can shoulder such things. He understands. I do, too.

When has someone misunderstood your heart? How did that make you feel? Did you try to clear the air? Did it work?

He already has.

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  • Margo Carmichael

    Very encouraging. And I love this, from the Bible, “Every tongue that rises against you will be condemned.”
    Btw, I think “protesteth too much” works well. :)

  • Susan G

    God’s timing and your ‘theme’ today are impeccable. :) I am wallowing in the throes of being misunderstood as we speak…I haven’t cleared the air yet, but will wait for this weekend when I will see my family member face to face. I have realized emails do not set ‘records straight’…and was actually the start of my being misunderstood… I realize God has given me this time to pray, set my heart ‘right’, and not be angry, but also try to empathisize with my family member before I try to discuss the matter – to see her side of the story. God is always working for our good, no matter the hard trials, challenges and problems we go through. I am so thankful for that! And will try my best to mend my relationship next weekend – with God’s strength, wisdom and grace…
    Thank you once again Mary, for your timely ‘message’.
    Praying comfort for you, your mom and your family at this time of your great loss.

  • Molly Lyons

    Ah, I see. It’s such a famous line, paraphrasing such a few words seems unnecessary and then I would have used neither the Elizabethan ‘eth’ nor the quotes.

  • http://forthisisthetime.com/ Esther Aspling

    I just sent an email that I’m sure will be misunderstood. Hoping it’s not though because my heart is in the right place.

    My oldest daughter’s biological father and his wife are in and out of prison and jail frequently. This has got to put stress on their two small children. I found a resource at SheLove Magazine from Sesame Street about incarceration for children and then sent it off to the mother of another one of my daughter’s half siblings hoping she’d be able to pass it on again.

    We’ll see how that goes….lol

    http://forthisisthetime.com/

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      I hope it is received well.

  • Molly Lyons

    The Shakespeare quotation from Hamlet is: The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” Misquoting such a famous play, doesn’t entice me to read your article but, rather, encourages me to avoid it.

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      I was paraphrasing, but thank you for letting me know the direct quote.

  • Tedd

    One thing I find amazing about your blog is the nature of the comments. I read them and can identify with so many. But I don’t see the kind of cruelty or name calling that is so apparent in so many other kinds of places on the web.

    I am exhibit A in a video on male sexual abuse on YouTube and the local public access channel. Almost immediately after it was uploaded two years ago, they had to turn the comments off due to the “cruel and juvenile nature” of the comments. (That description has been since removed. Commenting continues to be turned off.) Fortunately, I didn’t see any of the comments. But my mind seems to want to supply a few probable kinds of comments.

    I expect rejection.

    Once in a while, somebody says, “I saw you on TV.” And I feel trapped. And not just because I am fearful of what might be said, but because of what has been said. I feel trapped and my mouth seems to be stuck closed. What do I say? Every response I can muster feels like I’m inviting abuse.

    Thank you for the reminder that neither my reputation nor my safety is mine to protect.

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      That would be hard, Tedd. Hang in there, and REST.

  • http://www.annepeterson.com/ Anne Peterson

    Good post, Mary. Yes, I have been misunderstood. Many times I’m afraid. If only we could engage God’s help the moment it happens instead of letting out emotions drive our train. Then later after we are weary of the ride, and fully of little bumps and bruises we turn to God and ask him to please, “fix this.” The longer I know him the sooner I go to him, but there are times I still need the reminder to go to him first. I often think of Joseph who was totally misunderstood, whose integrity was challenged and who paid for what others thought. And yet, while Joseph refused to defend himself he submitted his reputation to the God who saw everything. Joseph ultimately learned he could trust in only God.

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      Yes, Joseph is very instructive!

  • Mollie Lyon

    Just struggling again with this this past weekend. I got the 3rd hand word that my father-in-law was in the hospital on Friday evening. Phrases, like, he won’t make it out of the hospital had us all worried. He is 91, with dementia. We had thought of traveling the 6hr round trip just in one day on Saturday to see my sister-in-law in from out of town as well. She called Sat. morning, requesting we didn’t come up, as Mom didn’t need company. I felt defensive and angry. I mean I thought we were family. But I have gotten into a habit of saying it isn’t my family or my parents, especially since my mother died 5 years ago, making me an official orphan at 47. I had to take a deep breath and listen to the whole story.

    This was a schedule admission to the hospital for a respite for my mother-in-law, who has been dealing with this on her own for too long. There is a son who lives local, but he appears to be oblivious to his father’s dementia and mother’s needs. She still cooks Sunday dinner for him, his wife, his son and family, because they need to stay in a familiar environment. At 87, my mother-in-law is amazing.

    Anyways, I was offended at being called company and it still bugged me later that evening, among a host of other problems. I finally sat outside and took it to the Lord. The barriers broke down and the next day in church, a powerful sermon on killing the kings of unconfessed sin, I felt total release.
    I realized the problem was with me. I had guilt, trying to figure out if I had been the demanding, lazy daughter-in-law. Our trips had been infrequent mostly because it is painful to visit, to see a once in command head of the household not know his family any more.

    I think back on the conversation and I know how painful it was for Margie to say those words. Mom is a rock through this all and she would have tried to cook and all that. Visiting my father-in-law in the hospital would not have helped him adjust to this program. And we were very tired to do the one day trip.
    Still the comment wanted to burrow into me and cause all kinds of hatred and bitterness. I had to let it go.

    • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

      What a difficult, complicated, painful stew of family! Hang in there, and I’m glad you took it to Jesus.

  • Tlafenton

    It pains me and Jesus to know so many are afflicted from being misunderstood, misjudged, gossiped about when they don’t know the reality, and extreme insinuations of wrong doing. My battle is still raging in divorce court, from an abuser who has now turned the tables, doing all he can to take the bad light off him and turn me into the cruel, abusive and absconding one. Especially when he took my childhood sexual abuse, childhood bullying at school, and loss of my father and used them against me to perpetrate his own abuse against me later on. God opened my eyes and rescued me from this abuse. My life is forever in Gods hands, the only place I want to be. I am in the process of trying to write an autobiography / memoir on my life as well.

    Thank you for this post that shows the reality of the greatest TRUTH, JESUS KNOWS OUR HEARTS! For this fact and many more of Gods ways, I walk in faith in my divorce proceedings, that my walk with Jesus, my character of integrity, compassion and giving even when it’s not deserved, our Father’s justice will be prevail. The true Light and reality of my individual character, and my character within my marriage, are Gods delight in my attempt of a Godly Christian walk. For the most important eyes of the highest Judges are ….our Father God and his son Jesus….AMEN!!! AND AGAIN I SAY AMEN!!!!

    • Anonymous

      I’m so sorry you’ve walked through such hardship, but I’m thankful you’re resting in the truth that Jesus knows your heart!

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  • Tina

    Dear mary, Thank you again for another insiteful blog from God. It's ok to be sad and to cry when you have been misunderstood and not believed. Especially from a trusted friend. I have been learning to say to people who want to gossip about others" If you want to talk about yourself that's fine, but I'm not interested in talking about others." When people say something to me about a rumour about me I just say "God knows the truth"

    I'm not saying it doesn't hurt, of course it does. But you can't beg people to listen to you and believe you. Like you said mary, if they don't want to believe you you need to go on so you can let go , forgive them and leave it in God's hands. He is the important one to know the truth and he knows everything!
    mary, as far as your heart, if people really paid attention to your heart they would see that you have a loving, caring heart that truly Loves God! In Christ's Love & prayers – Sis in Christ – Tina

    • http://www.marydemuth.com marydemuth

      That's a great gossip response, Tina.

      And thanks for the observations about my heart!

  • Tina

    Dear mary, Thank you again for another insiteful blog from God. It's ok to be sad and to cry when you have been misunderstood and not believed. Especially from a trusted friend. I have been learning to say to people who want to gossip about others" If you want to talk about yourself that's fine, but I'm not interested in talking about others." When people say something to me about a rumour about me I just say "God knows the truth"

    I'm not saying it doesn't hurt, of course it does. But you can't beg people to listen to you and believe you. Like you said mary, if they don't want to believe you you need to go on so you can let go , forgive them and leave it in God's hands. He is the important one to know the truth and he knows everything!
    mary, as far as your heart, if people really paid attention to your heart they would see that you have a loving, caring heart that truly Loves God! In Christ's Love & prayers – Sis in Christ – Tina

    • http://www.marydemuth.com marydemuth

      That's a great gossip response, Tina.

      And thanks for the observations about my heart!

  • dianne

    thank you for this post. just this morning i was walking with someone and felt like they were implying something about me that just isn't so. it just made me sad. but i needed the reminder that jesus was also misunderstood, and i pray this will make me more sensitive to others.

    • http://www.marydemuth.com marydemuth

      That's a good way to look at it, Dianne.

  • dianne

    thank you for this post. just this morning i was walking with someone and felt like they were implying something about me that just isn't so. it just made me sad. but i needed the reminder that jesus was also misunderstood, and i pray this will make me more sensitive to others.

    • http://www.marydemuth.com marydemuth

      That's a good way to look at it, Dianne.

  • Terri

    Sometimes there's just no explaining that CAN be done on my part to convince others of the truth. Thank you for the reminder that God DOES see & He's familiar with my pain. Thanks!

    • http://www.marydemuth.com marydemuth

      You are very welcome. It's so comforting to know that God sees.

  • Terri

    Sometimes there's just no explaining that CAN be done on my part to convince others of the truth. Thank you for the reminder that God DOES see & He's familiar with my pain. Thanks!

    • http://www.marydemuth.com marydemuth

      You are very welcome. It's so comforting to know that God sees.

  • http://findingtheinspiring.blogspot.com Angel

    I have also known the weight of injustice, misunderstanding, judgment. I have been wounded by words and my reaction is to either run or build walls. I still get shocked by how cruel Christians can be to one another. I appreciate your reminder that.we should be careful not to fall in the same pit. "Do unto others" still applies even when we feel attacked. After all, God is our defender…and the only judge that matters.

    • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/marydemuth marydemuth

      I get shocked too, Angel.

  • http://findingtheinspiring.blogspot.com Angel

    I have also known the weight of injustice, misunderstanding, judgment. I have been wounded by words and my reaction is to either run or build walls. I still get shocked by how cruel Christians can be to one another. I appreciate your reminder that.we should be careful not to fall in the same pit. "Do unto others" still applies even when we feel attacked. After all, God is our defender…and the only judge that matters.

    • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/marydemuth marydemuth

      I get shocked too, Angel.

  • http://www.thebeautyinhisgrip.blogspot.com Joan DAvis

    So true! I am so thankful that God is our one true judge! Thanks for the great reminder to leave that job to Him.

    Living for Him, Joan

    • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/marydemuth marydemuth

      Well said, Joan.

  • http://www.thebeautyinhisgrip.blogspot.com Joan DAvis

    So true! I am so thankful that God is our one true judge! Thanks for the great reminder to leave that job to Him.

    Living for Him, Joan

    • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/marydemuth marydemuth

      Well said, Joan.

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/dyuhas48 dyuhas48

    Good thoughts. I learned a long time ago that people choose to believe whatever they want. I cannot change another person's mind. I might talk until I'm blue in the face, but a closed mind is just that. Letting go of the natural desire to be vindicated is so important and can only be accomplished by doing as you said: trusting God with my reputation.

    • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/marydemuth marydemuth

      So true. But oh how I try!

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/dyuhas48 dyuhas48

    Good thoughts. I learned a long time ago that people choose to believe whatever they want. I cannot change another person's mind. I might talk until I'm blue in the face, but a closed mind is just that. Letting go of the natural desire to be vindicated is so important and can only be accomplished by doing as you said: trusting God with my reputation.

    • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/marydemuth marydemuth

      So true. But oh how I try!

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  • Kelly@tabithas-team

    Honest and beautiful. Thanks for being so open about this.

    • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/marydemuth marydemuth

      I hope I didn't come across as having all the answers. The truth is that my initial reactions are quite self protective!

  • Kelly@tabithas-team

    Honest and beautiful. Thanks for being so open about this.

    • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/marydemuth marydemuth

      I hope I didn't come across as having all the answers. The truth is that my initial reactions are quite self protective!

  • http://www.smithsk.com Susan

    Good post. Something we all face and some practical advice how to handle it in the right way.

    • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/marydemuth marydemuth

      Thank you, Susan.

  • http://www.smithsk.com Susan

    Good post. Something we all face and some practical advice how to handle it in the right way.

    • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/marydemuth marydemuth

      Thank you, Susan.