Language, the Source of Misunderstanding

Featured imageAs far back as I can remember, I have hated being misunderstood—especially when that misunderstanding ends up making somebody feel bad. My earliest memory of this happening was from when I was probably four or five. I don’t remember the details, but it must have been one of those rare occasions when my brother and I weren’t at each other’s throats. I think I gave him a piece of my candy or something like that. I remember him saying, “Thank you.” I was feeling very generous and in my mind, I didn’t want him to feel like he had to thank me. I tried to express this by saying, “You’re not welcome.”

To my surprise, he immediately became upset and told my mom that I was being rude. I obviously didn’t understand the whole idea of saying “you’re welcome” to someone. I figured it was an obligatory answer you just said when someone said thanks. I remember so clearly how sad it made me that he thought I was being mean… especially since I was trying to be nice. I tried to explain to him what I meant and he wouldn’t hear it.

It wouldn’t be the last time I was misunderstood this way. We wouldn’t be human if such misunderstandings didn’t occur from time to time.

What I think sets some of us apart, however, is how we respond to being misunderstood this way. When I care about someone, I hurt when they hurt. To think I may be the cause of this pain is like a stab to the heart. I don’t know how to feel any other way. I can’t turn off being empathetic or sensitive.

Recently, an incident occurred that reminds me a lot of what happened with my brother. There was a third party involved who I felt misunderstood something I said and I needed to know if I owed an explanation to a friend concerning what I meant. I should have just let it go because the more I tried to understand how my words may have been interpreted, the worse things got with this third party. It all just went downhill; the misunderstanding only grew. We both ended up angry and upset.

Long story short, I lost someone who I considered to be a good friend and the friendship of another person who I liked. Interestingly enough, the friend I was so worried about hurting was fine and we are still friends.

I’m not going to claim to be innocent in the whole matter. I’m not claiming to have handled things perfectly. I’m an impulsive person; some things hurt deeply and I react too quickly. Sometimes there are other things going on in my life that may influence how I react.

I am hard on myself, but the one thing I can say is I am someone who can own up to my faults. I forgive quickly. I don’t hold grudges. I have no problem apologizing for my actions when necessary… and I have.

So, what can I learn from all this?

To slow down. To know when I’m not in the frame of mind to interact with others when there is a chance for misunderstanding. To not involve third parties or fourth parties or fifth parties…

I’ve also learned who my real friends are. I’ve learned that just because I see life as too short and friendships as too important to let a misunderstanding come between us, not everyone thinks the same way. I’ve learned that I can apologize but not necessarily receive forgiveness. I’m understanding that just because I am willing to own up to my faults, that doesn’t mean others will do the same.

Now I’m moving on.  I’m saving my tears, pain, and guilt for people and circumstances worthy of it.

My dad dying? Definitely worthy of my tears.

Losing the job I loved? What kind of person would I be if that didn’t hurt?

The guilt that tries to choke me daily concerning whether I’m doing enough for my son who I’m certain has Aspbergers? While somewhat irrational, it’s worthy of my  concern.

The opinion of people I’ve never really met and whether or not they care about me? Not worth it. So not worth it.

Looking back, I can see these people were not my friends. They are actually the self-proclaimed leaders of something equivalent to a high school clique and everything that goes with it. I’ve never been very fond of cliques and certainly never fit into any. I’m okay with that.

I wish them well. And that is all.

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