How do you respond when you are an overall kind person, but people take advantage of your kindness? What if your kindness was misunderstood by those close to you? What if a misunderstood act of kindness deeply hurt your friendship/relationship?
We’ve all been there. Whether it’s a patron at the restaurant where you serve food who is testing your patience (and thus threatening your chance of getting a good tip at the end of the meal), or it’s your guy friend who thought that you were flirting with him when you were just trying to be nice, kindness is not always well understood. We misunderstand each other all the time! We’re all imperfect human beings that are trying to communicate in ways that we understand, but that others might not.
I’ll admit that I misunderstand others quite often. When everyone at the dinner table is laughing at an inside joke except for me, it’s easy for me to believe that they’re laughing at me and my ignorance. When I see on Facebook that all my friends are hanging out and I didn’t even get an invite, I wonder if my friends purposefully avoided me. I show kindness to others, but I don’t see the fruits of that kindness. People show kindness to me, and I can’t receive it because I don’t know if it’s genuine.
Sometimes, I wish I could pause reality for just one minute and ask everyone to explain their intentions for saying or doing what they just said/did. Why are you laughing? Why wasn’t I included? Why can’t I be nice to you without you thinking I’m flirting? Why are you calling me to complain about your order when it wasn’t my fault? And now that I’m thinking about it, I’m sure that others wish that they could do the same for me.
Personally, when I misunderstand a situation, I always assume that people think the worst of me. However, it is selfish of me to believe that the people I encounter on a regular basis wake up in the morning with the specific intention to make me feel miserable. Nevertheless, my past hurts tempt me to believe that since I’ve been hurt before, I’m doomed to a life of perpetual hurt.
As finite human beings who have been hurt, we’re led to believe that our hurt will always define us. We’re led to believe that we’ll be doomed to let that one guy who broke our heart one time ruin our chance of ever finding love again. We’re led to believe that we’ll be doomed to let that one condescending statement our family member said to us define our very identities. And when we see people or circumstances that remind us of the people/circumstances that hurt us in the past, we cower for fear that we will get hurt yet again.
We begin to look at the world through hurt-colored glasses.
We misunderstand because we assume people are trying to hurt us like we’ve been hurt before.
On my drive home this evening, I realized how blessed I really am. I have a family that cares about me, a job that pays the bills and allows me to grow, friends that make me feel special, and a husband that never lets me feel alone (he’s even sitting by my side as I’m typing this!). Unfortunately, I can’t see the blessing because I’m either going through a rough emotional season or I’m afraid that a conflict will come and demolish all of the good that I have in my life. I have a difficult time showing kindness to others and feeling the kindness of others because I’m so fearful of getting hurt and being misunderstood.
But there is a way out of the “perpetual” hurt.
I can’t change the way that people talk to me. I can’t sit every person down I meet and ask them why they said something that hurt me. But I can look at my own heart and see what needs to change in me.
Showing kindness and mercy to those around me starts with my my relationship with God. Jesus gave us two commandments that are simple to memorize, but difficult to live out: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength…and love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). When I understand how much God loves me, that helps me to love myself (not in a self-centered way, but in a way that encourages me to live a healthy and confident life), and finding my worth in Christ and not in other people helps me to love people and not depend on people.
If I cling to my hurt and let my past define me, I have no space for the love that God wants to pour into me…and therefore, I have no love to give to others. When I remove the hurt-colored glasses, that’s when I can see how much God really loves me.
If you are feeling hurt and misunderstood, take off the hurt-colored glasses. Let God’s love define you, and let that love overflow to the people in your life—even the people who misunderstand you.