How Scared Are You Of Being Misunderstood?

Photo by  Caleb Woods  on  Unsplash

Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash

I had first given this the working title: “The Vulnerability of Writing”, but it was somewhat of a misnomer. Writing down your thoughts and ideas, or your explanation of things doesn’t make you vulnerable at all. What does make you vulnerable, is when people read them, or specifically, how they understand them.

I have long been somewhat of a man who writes down the things in his head. I need an external “brain” to store the information from my actual brain otherwise my actual brain forgets it. For a long time before I found Evernote, my Notes app on my phone was a disjointed list of thoughts, ideas, plans, expressions, expositions, and ramblings.

Going back to the idea of vulnerability, what is it that makes you vulnerable when writing openly? Simply, the fact that I can never possibly say everything. Writing is often like preparing for a debate. You have to anticipate objections- all of them. Then you have to write in such a way as to defuse the objections. The problem is that this can make what you’re writing very long, especially for a format like blogging.

What I inevitably have to do is decide what to leave out, and honestly, I’m not that good at it. I prefer to have it all in. I prefer to explain every detail. The more I cut out, the more vulnerable to being misunderstood I feel. Strangely, I’ve become somewhat fine with that.

Everyone thinks differently. And I relate to Apple’s business model in which they can put out a product that is more underdeveloped than they’d like, get complaints or corrections, and then put out a better product. I’m not suggesting that we should be fluid about doctrine or practice and let dialogue and the masses form what we believe. We shouldn’t be like Beto, “Shape me into the presidential candidate you want me to be!”

What I am saying is that a writer (in this case me) doesn’t always say everything they want to say to be concise. This brevity should get people to think about the content, to engage with it, ask questions, seek clarification, and offer their manner of presenting it better. But what often happens is that readers have the same fear- the fear of being misunderstood. Perhaps from past experiences with inequitable people and bull-headed conversations, we Independent Baptists seem very afraid of being misunderstood, especially online where things can’t be erased and Christian “keyboard warriors” exist. Instead of iron sharpening iron, we’re afraid of being bludgeoned.

There is, of course, wisdom in caring about how people understand you. Only “a fool uttereth all his mind”. I certainly understand the principle of “Be not many masters…”. Also, wise people are “slow to speak”, and “in the multitude of words there wanteth not sin”. But has the fear of being misunderstood become obsessive for Independent Baptists, like a mental tick? Has it forced us into utter silence among our peers and others? Where’s the balance? Is there a point at which the wisdom of being careful with words turns into selfishness because we’re afraid of looking bad or ignorant? I know many good men who should be writing more things in a public way. Honestly, they have more good things to say than I do!

I have found that putting what I think in writing helps me frame things better after I’ve written them rather than while I’m writing them. Putting it in front of others (both of you!) helps me with this process. Obviously, you can never eliminate all misunderstandings, but that is why follow-up, charity, and equitable conversations are so important.

Many are afraid to do this because the fear of being misunderstood right now is greater in their mind than the fear of being misunderstood later. I’ll be thirty-eight years old this year. If the Lord tarries and gives me a long life here, at some point before I die, I desire to be able to communicate and frame what I believe in concise ways that cannot be easily misunderstood, and that answer all objections. For that, I need the exercise of writing in a public format. For you, it might just mean having more important conversations. I’d love to hear your thoughts about that too, but first, you need to be unafraid of being misunderstood.

If you’ve found this helpful, consider sharing it with a friend. Thanks!