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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Being Happily Misunderstood

None of us wants to be misunderstood, but the fact is we’ll often be misunderstood. We don’t need to be rude or uncouth in response. It’d be far better to learn how to be happily misunderstood.

When we’re misunderstood it creates dissonance, whether consciously or unconsciously. Gaining a happy acceptance of being misunderstood is a vital resiliency mechanism for life. It gives us a way of reducing our inner discord that we either deny or find upsetting.

Two Unhealthy Responses

Taking the situation of being misunderstood, perhaps where someone believes we’ve betrayed them when we haven’t or never meant to, there are two responses that are unhealthy. Yet, each of us will vacillate between the two, and may find ourselves favouring one by the features of our personality default—whether fight or flight.

The Aggression to Fight

One of the classic responses to being attacked, and being misunderstood is taken as a form of attack, is counter-attack. ‘We can’t just sit here and take this without defending ourselves!’ is the inner sentiment of a heart and mind all at sea, but fiercely indignant, with its situation. Most ‘fights’ end badly.

The Submission of Flight

The other classic response is to harmonise the encounter—to quell the attack. The motive is to hasten in retreat so that conflict can be avoided, whether it’s a healthy conflict or not. And some conflicts are healthy. Some provide a way through; a better relationship is forged. It’s just that all conflicts need to be skilfully negotiated.


Despite reticence to anger management problems or the doormat syndrome, neither fight nor flight is superior to the other. They’re both inferior responses. Neither of these responses is doing us, the other person, or our relationship any lasting favours.

Reactionary behaviour is always found wanting.

A Better Response Fits With Truth And Faith

Otherwise termed as assertiveness, the position between aggression and submission, the right response to situations of being misunderstood is to happily accept the inner discord, and the tension between them and us, and to let it ‘sit’ pending further investigation. What we have here is delay; not to delay for any other reason but to continually align with truth and, therefore, exemplify faith.

Relationship outcomes, in the eventual sense, always give way to the truth. People are often vindicated later as the truth comes to bear in the relational setting.

Being happily misunderstood accepts a mighty and eternal truth: people will get it wrong about us sometimes. When we lurch back in defence, or too quickly own something we shouldn’t, our credibility suffers because we’ve sold out on the truth—that knowledge that’s still not known but is coming. The truth lags. But it does come.

This lag may take little more than a moment or several minutes. It may take longer. We gain (or retain) more respect from people when we wait on the truth—even in the tension of conflict.


We feel more at peace when we’ve got tools for being misunderstood—which happens daily. Getting panicked and defending ourselves never helps. Being happily misunderstood is about holding the moment of conflict, in faith, so the truth may be revealed in a cooler light of day. The truth is about relational fairness. Faith augments it.

© 2012 S. J. Wickham.

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