To be understood:
“To know how someone feels or why someone does something, as a result of experience or by imagining what it must be like to be them.”
“Conveying appropriate interest, concern and care; taking thought of another and entering his/her world.”
We desperately want to be heard, we need to be understood, but at the same time it’s a bit terrifying. Yet, we feel so alone without it. We starve deeply to truly be known. Yet, we can be our biggest enemies with this need. Simply put, we wear masks, but as long as the masks are up we can’t be truly understood. It’s work. It’s vulnerable work. It’s willingness to open up and show your heart through words and communication.
I once read a quote that was very sad and revealing to me, by a famous rap artist that spoke so loudly what I think many of us feel, “I don’t want to be understood because if people understand me, they get tired of me” – Lil Wayne. We are scared. Our fear cripples us from receiving the very thing that is necessary for our health! We get angry, thinking no one “gets us,” yet deep, deep inside I am scared to let you really understand me. Maybe you’ll think I’m weak when I tell you I hurt because I’m just a girl with needs, and I would like your help to meet those needs. Maybe you’ll think I’m too needy when I express that my love for you makes me desire for you to see my pain and share it with me. Maybe it’s easier for me to get angry and make unclear demands, than to show you my vulnerability. Maybe it’s easier for me to assume you don’t care, than to give you a chance when I honestly work to communicate my fears. I’m scared of how you will really perceive me.
But, guess what? When I become open and vulnerable with you, you feel the freedom to take off your mask, too. Then, the beauty of connection happens as you can share, I can listen, and I can seek to understand you, and see you. Truly see you. I can put on your shoes, and walk around a bit. But, only when the mask is off, and I can know what your shoes really feel like. We’re both just flawed, messy humans on this step by step journey of walking out this life. Seeking to understand one another helps us both relax some, and to see that reality.
Let’s talk about some practical ways to seek to understand and to be understood. Firstly, and definitely a valuable aspect is that we cannot understand if we do not listen. That may sound silly, but actually it’s not. In a busy culture full of fast-paced lifestyles, technology addictions, and the down-play of face to face communication we simply often don’t take a lot of time to listen. We constantly interrupt each other, hurrying to make our point. We seldom sit across the table with uninterrupted time to look in each other’s eyes, and hear one another’s hearts… without cell phone interruptions, or tight schedules pressing into the time.
We’ve got to be intentional about this, my friends. This is so important.
So here are a few ideas for us:
*Slow down, and find time for quiet reflection on your own. Think about what it is you mostly want to communicate about an issue that you need to share with someone.
*Learn to be still. Learn the beauty of silence, and you will learn to slow down and hear the beauty of the words that break the silence.
*Try active listening skills as you listen to others.
*Resist the urge to think/say things like: “You should know what I’m thinking,” “I don’t even care to try to explain, because he won’t understand anyways,” or maybe “She doesn’t care enough, or she would ask me what’s wrong.” Cos, we don’t actually don’t know what the other is thinking or feeling. It’s wrong to assume of each other that we do. It’s our job to share with one another through the gift of communication that God has given us. It helps us grow in grace, and gives us new strength as we do. Simply the sharing helps in the process of healing, my friend.
*Patience. With yourself, and for others. Sometimes it takes us awhile to dig down into the depths of our souls, and really share what’s going on. Often we feel the need to rush the words, and break the silence. Silence also communicates the heart, my friend.
*Make sure that you hear the complete context of the other speaker. Don’t let your mind wander with assumptions. Stay focused and intentional on this moment. Stay steady in this precious moment of seeking to understand what is presently being said. Ask questions if you don’t see the picture fully, all the while communicating that you want to understand with love.
*Share the deepest issues with those who you can trust, and feel safely that they won’t exploit, criticize, or judge (and you learn to be this person for others, too!). This should usually be a small circle… maybe even just a couple of people in your life. Once someone has gained your trust, the mask is easier and easier to take off. But, this takes risk. It takes knowing that you are a real, living breathing work of art in progress, and sharing the real you is part of this process. And YOU are worth sharing with others!
“Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”
― Francis of Assisi
….and maybe a little nugget of beauty is that as we seek to understand, a treasured gift comes as we realize how to be understood.
MacMillan Dictionary (2015). Center for Relational Care. Peacemakers Ministries, Dale Pyne. Non-Violent Communciation, Dr. Marshall Rosenburg. Carenet Training Manual.