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Am I Willing To Be Misunderstood?

“Am I willing to be misunderstood?” I saw the title of a recent substack article from my friend, singer songwriter, and poet Zach Winters and it mediately cut to my heart. I thought about you here at this site. What a question!

I can so easily fail to step out in faith and ever say anything of substance because I am afraid that others will misunderstand me. I want to share things and ask questions here that I haven’t. I have been misunderstood before and it can be debilitating. I’ve attempted to share things on this very site that others have misunderstood and walked away from the conversation after months of an exhausting back and forth which leaves me wishing I hadn’t even tried to express what I was thinking and feeling in the first place.

This has to be a tactic of the enemy.

I think about many of you that have written to me or called about the possibility of becoming a part of a simple church. Many of you have stared down the possibility of friends and loved ones thinking or saying things about you like, “They think they have got it all figured out!” or “They are walking away from their faith.” Despite the possibility of being misunderstood, you trusted and obeyed anyway! You resisted the fear of being misunderstood.

Recently at our simple church retreat someone shared intimate details of life with the group. Weekly many of you open up and attempt to communicate what God is teaching you. All of this happens at the risk of being misunderstood; yet, you trust and share! I’m so grateful for your courage!

Certainly there is wisdom and discernment in what and when and how we share ideas. It’s certainly not a badge of honor to be misunderstood in some cases. Yet how many of us remain frozen or silent because we are paralyzed by this fear?

Is something burning in your heart that you feel you need to share with someone but have not because of fear they will not understand?

I asked Zach if I could share his thoughts here. Below is his post that inspired me to write to you today. If you are encouraged by it, let him know. I suggest following him at substack and checking out his music. It’s rich with thought-provoking perspectives on faith, life, and love.

Snowmelt Roots

Am I Willing To Be Misunderstood:  A Meditation by Zach Winters

Last week I received a pre-print copy of my book of poetry and as exciting as that was—seeing the 150 pages laid out just as they’ll be for anyone who picks it up—there is a sober reality to bringing a body of work to a close.

Did I say all I wanted to say?

Did I leave things out that should have been said?

I tell songwriters sometimes, “This won’t be the last thing you write.” I think it’s sound advice (which I try to remind myself of sometimes), but the truth is, it has always been a fearful thing to bring creative work into the light.

Why a fearful thing?
There are a number of reasons—internal and external—but the one that nags me most is, after I have given a work my best attention I am capable of in that moment…

Am I willing to be misunderstood?

Escher’s Hand With Reflecting Sphere

I have a few comforts that help me move past the paralysis of being misunderstood.

-Other people’s perceptions are outside of my control: I will never be able to control for how people connect or don’t connect with what I write (or who I am). I tend to operate with Robert Frost’s advice in mind: “No tears for the writer, no tears for the reader.” In other words, if it resonates deeply with me, then I have to trust that the work will go out into the world and find others with whom it will also resonate. How many beautiful albums have I missed out on because I wasn’t in the right mood? Wasn’t the right season, etc.? So I simply try and write things I mean.

-Communication is organic, not static: whatever I make, write, sing or say is incomplete. It’s not the final word. So why should I expect that this new thing is a crystallized, perfected utterance? That is a product mentality, not a gardener’s mentality. And even if I get something wrong, I can get up, dust myself off, and try to learn how to make it right, or if not right, then better.

Jesus was willing to be misunderstood: as the Gospels read, Jesus was misunderstood time and again, both by people who were against him and also by his family and closest friends. To the very end, from His Last Supper of the Passover meal to praying in the olive grove to the cross and even after… and when he taught people in stories and parables, I can’t help but think how much confusion he could have avoided by just doing an extensive, year-long Q&A. Perhaps doctrinal clarity wasn’t what He was after. Maybe He was willing to be misunderstood because his sense of why He was here compelled Him beyond tending to and maintaining an image. I’m beguiled and filled with wonder at the implications of how He lived and what it means about the character of God.

This is just meant as a small meditation on struggling with the fear of being misunderstood. Certainly more to explore along this theme…

Q: how do you move past/overcome the fear of being misunderstood?


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3 thoughts on “Am I Willing To Be Misunderstood?”

  1. Thanks Gavin for sharing this. Such an encouragement. I took feel the frustration ( Joy and Pain! ) Of being misunderstood. But I have learned for me that as you said, my reality may be misunderstood because we are all in different points on the journey. Many times it has to do with the Holy Spirit’s work that many do not understand. That Jesus taught in the Spiritual paradigm of Life and many are stuck in the physical side. When we only walk in the Physical, we miss Spiritual context and walk only in Religious concepts. If it is true, that most are not praying and pondering over God’s Word daily then they will never see the Spirit Life that Jesus reflected. Many won’t understand having Spirit conversations over God’s Word and Real Life (aka House Church) and it is not Church to them… Just scary. Does that make sense ? Thanks again for sharing… Good Stuff!! Love you Guys!! Blessings, Steve and Gaitha Athans

    1. It does make sense! I would only add that in my experience I’ve seen that reading the Word and praying daily can very much become an act of “walking in the physical” as you put it. I know those who extremely devout in these matters that are scared by house church / simple church. It seems is that encountering the risen Jesus outside ones religious patterns in transformative ways —which most often is in conjunction with reading the Word and prayer—is how the religious lens we read scripture though is removed. How others see this way of life is a bit mysterious to me. I certainly have realized my limitations in helping others understand the kind of church experience you describe. Does that make sense? Thanks Steve for chiming in!!!

  2. Gavin, I have felt this way for my whole life…i often express myself and others are turned off, not all but some.
    People would have to know me to understand i speak my current mind. I love to hear what others think as it helps me form where i am at.
    Everything is fluid and changing. We take other’s words for thought and decide if it fits, if we need to consider more or less, if it means anything at all.
    I love the blending of others thoughts, experiences, age lessons and all that comes from being with kind people. Not mean people.

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