A friend of mine posted the other day on social media, "If I read, 'understood the assignment' one more time!" I hit the laughing emoji immediately because I could see her rolling her eyes as she typed it.
Understanding the assignment seems to be the order of the day, but I'm curious to know how we can understand the assignment when we have no clue what it is in some instances. Actually, no, that is a bit presumptuous. I think we are focused on the wrong assignment. Yeah, maybe that's it.
I think the assignment, more than anything else, is what's "Clearly Misunderstood"—this refers to someone who completely missed the point or did not understand something or someone. Many of us are walking around screaming at each other like Chris Tucker in Rush Hour, "Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?" And in kind, when people don't respond how we expect, rather than say it a different way, we keep repeating the same thing, only louder.
You know what is clearly misunderstood in Bahamian culture? The simple question, "How are you?" I'm almost positive that 8 out of 10 times you'll hear, "I'm right here!" A location rather than a specific answer like, (i.e., I'm great, sick, or tired!)
People listen through filters. (i.e. mood, personal interests, preconceived notions and expectations, voice tone, bias or prejudices, time, relevance, body language, values and beliefs, attitudes, etc.) Depending on which filter a person listens through, what you say and what they hear tend to be two different things.
We find this in that game every youth group has perhaps played—where you tell one person at the beginning of the line a secret and see if the tenth person reveals that same message at the end. In almost all cases, the answer is no because each of those ten people is not listening to understand.
I'll give you an example. I'm sometimes approached to complete homework assignments for persons who may have a little too much on their plate. Hey, I get it; no judgment here. More often than not, they are even willing to pay. I'll tell you that can be a lucrative business, but it's not about the money for me. Yet when I say I can't do it, by the immediate change in tone, I know what they've heard is, "I don't want to do it." In reality, that is not necessarily the case.
I constantly decline because I would not have a clue what to do in most of those instances. Many people think that it should be a no-brainer to write an essay because I'm a writer. I try to explain that I've not studied anything to do with their course subject (i.e., the sciences, philosophy, history, or geography, etc.). That means the amount of time it would take me to research the information needed to write on the subject matter fluently; then, I might as well register and do the class too. In other words, it's unfair to ask me to surmise months of learning in the short time frame given to complete the homework. I'm not even ashamed to say, Sir, ma'am, I do not understand the assignment.
A misunderstanding is often the source of much contention. I remember dating a lady's son, and he would repeatedly say he was demonstrative. A self-proclaimed author like myself thought that word meant something very different, and it never even dawned on me to look it up. Yes, me, Miss Encyclopedia Brown. I often thought he was referring to something dealing with anger, so every time he said that word, I would set it off.
In hindsight, I can see how my lack of knowledge was the source of avoidable conflict. Hear me; saints ignorance is by no means bliss. Anyway, many unwarranted arguments ensued because I was mistaken. There I was going APE about something I didn't have a full understanding of. I didn't take the time, to if only, ask a question. A simple "What do you mean by that?" would have quilled hours of heated debates. (sigh)
Fast forward years later, in conversation with another gentleman, he says, "Yes, I'm a very demonstrative guy!" Errrr, now wait now! This was one of those early on conversations, and my lil funky attitude had yet to make her debut. So what in the name of all that good and pleasant is home slice talking about?
A quick check-in with my closest ally, Siri, and I couldn't help but burst into laughter that borderline almost turned into tears. Demonstrative—open displays of emotion. Uhhhhhhh!!!! Oh! My! Gawdddd!! While the demonstration of those emotions was loud, I could have tempered my reaction not to add fuel to the fire. If I thought it would have made a difference, I would have called what's-his-face and said sorry. Go ahead and call me the prototype of clearly misunderstood.
There are times when people misinterpret our actions or even our intentions. Maybe we didn't translate our body language, facial expression, handwriting or our speech as clearly as we thought we had. It is sometimes humorous when a situation is hashed out. When there is an error in judgement, it's no big deal if we catch it early enough, and if we correct it, no harm, no foul, right? Well, not really!
So it made me wonder, is it that we misunderstand, misconstrue, or is the bane of our existence human frailty? The difference between the two is that misconstrue—is to interpret inaccurately or to understand incorrectly; to misunderstand; while misunderstand—is to understand incorrectly, while thinking one has understood correctly. In comparison, human frailty speaks to our inherent weaknesses.
Take Solomon, for instance; he knew he was not to marry women of other nations. I believe the bible phrased it, "...You are not to associate with them, and they are not to associate with you..." (1 Kings 11:2) Yet, he did, under the guise that he was forging international relations. Next thing you know, his wives were asking him to go against something his father David told him on his dying bed, honour the Lord and keep His statutes—should be no confusion there, aye!? Somehow Mr. Big Meech himself was like, what harm could it do to give in a little leeway to my wives and their beliefs—you know, for peace sake! This, my friends, is what you call grossly mistaken. I believe, that he believed he was doing nothing wrong.
Yet this same Solomon, I suppose while all his faculties were fully percolating, penned these powerful words, "…And with all your acquiring, get understanding [actively seek spiritual discernment, mature comprehension, and logical interpretation]." (Proverbs 4:7 AMP)
How do you get understanding? You study, ask questions, but most of all, you listen. See, the truth is, I'm not willing to learn a subject I'm not interested in, so I won't ever understand enough to do someone's homework outside of my current expertise. Had I asked more questions, closely studied those actions, and actually listened to what was being said, then those emotional outbursts that were loudly on display should have been an immediate red flag.
And do you know what that red flag is called? The infamous, "Well, this is just the way I am." Guess what? That's fine, be you, boo! In all your colourful you-ness. But as for me and my house, if our belief systems aren't in sync, you'll forever be a yard friend when it comes to access to me. When people's beliefs don't match, it leaves too much room for things to be taken the wrong way.
Listen to this, and I want you to see how we end up in disaster when the wrong influences guide our filter. Let me set the stage first; the Israelites decided they wanted a physical King like the nations around them. I can hear them now, "Yea, God, You were good for Abraham, Issac and Jacob, but we're over it." They were like call J.G. Wentworth 877-King-Now, 877-King now! #el-oh-el
So Samuel passed on the Lord’s warning to the people who were asking him for a king. “This is how a king will reign over you,” Samuel said. “The king will draft your sons and assign them to his chariots and his charioteers, making them run before his chariots.
Some will be generals and captains in his army, some will be forced to plow in his fields and harvest his crops, and some will make his weapons and chariot equipment. The king will take your daughters from you and force them to cook and bake and make perfumes for him.
He will take away the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his own officials. He will take a tenth of your grain and your grape harvest and distribute it among his officers and attendants.
He will take your male and female slaves and demand the finest of your cattle and donkeys for his own use. He will demand a tenth of your flocks, and you will be his slaves. When that day comes, you will beg for relief from this king you are demanding, but then the Lord will not help you.”
But the people refused to listen to Samuel’s warning. “Even so, we still want a king,” they said. “We want to be like the nations around us. Our king will judge us and lead us into battle.” (1 Samuel 8:10-19 NLT)
The urban translation is by way of Maya Angelou, "When people tell you who they are, believe them, the first time! 'Cause I see zero benefits in all that there. There is absolutely, positively, no way on God's green earth, you can hear all that and still make the same decision. There's no way! Except there is, we do it all the time!
Misunderstanding happens when you're using the wrong filter. For a long time, I had a filter I didn't know was there. The one called 'noise and distraction.' Better known as "watching other people!" Meaning I was stuck on desires that were not my own. The life I was chasing didn't 1. line up with my purpose, and 2. nor was it aligned with God's timeline. But as of late, everywhere I turn, I see this question in some form or the other, "Who or what is in your ear?" It made me actively stop and take an inventory of what I listen to, who I listen to, and what is being said in my ear gates.
I promise you at the core of most misunderstandings is when we listen to respond and don't listen to understand. Here's the thing, if you quiet the noise, you'll soon learn that what is being said isn't what is being heard. And that, my friend, is the source of all your contention. All I'm saying is check your filter.