A couple of years back, Stan and I were having a serious conversation about how we felt about how we were doing in different areas of life. When it came to parenting, Stan was feeling a bit frustrated because he felt like he was too short-tempered with the kiddos. He told me that he was bringing home stress with him and that he felt “inadequate in his fathering” at the time. My response was, apparently, not the response he had written in the script for this conversation: “No, No Baby…you’re adequate!” He paused and looked at me and said, “Well, with that high praise from you, I’m likely to get a big head about how awesome I am.” It took me a minute to figure out why he was getting snarky. He explained to me that I was only calling him adequate…not an amazing father…not a good father…but one step above abusive. I explained my thoughts: I explained that he said he felt like he was “inadequate which means not adequate” and that in my book you were either adequate or not adequate…there wasn’t a super-adequate option…I was simply responding to the word choice that he had used. We still giggle about this today. When I want to make him smile, I tell him how adequate he is and he pretends to swoon over the high praise. We both learned a lesson from that conversation years back: for the sake of unity, we have to pursue understanding…not just take words at face-value.
One of my biggest pet-peeves is when people, who know your character and your heart, don’t give you the benefit of the doubt. I’m a verbal bumbler…I’m going to say things the wrong way…often. My friends know that I’m not good at “fluffy talk.” What I mean by this is that I don’t word things well. I’m getting better at it…but I’m going to screw it up. I’m going to say things like “No, No…You’re adequate” when I think you are amazing. But, the people who make it into my circle of friends, also know that my character is such that I ALWAYS want the best for people that I love…I never intend to hurt my people.
So, how can you have unity with a verbal bumbler? How can you be in unity with others if you are the verbal bumbler? I think that you have to pursue understanding…true understanding…and not just take a conversation at face-value (and if you are like me, replay it over and over in your head.) Don’t dwell on the word choice…try to understand the heart behind the statement. What does the person mean by what they said. If you aren’t sure, ask for clarification. Say something like, “It seems like you are saying this…but I know you well-enough to know that I must be understanding you incorrectly…could you please explain what you are saying to me?”
I’ve had relationships before that have tanked because people refused to give me the benefit of the doubt and just assumed the worst of me. It was heart-breaking for me to know that they thought so little of my character and, honestly, it was such a waste to throw away a friendship/relationship over something so trivial. What makes it worse is when you find that the person has also been holding a grudge over the misunderstanding…that is a lot of unnecessary pain, anger, energy, and time being expended. (And honestly, who has extra time, energy, and emotional stamina to waste these days? Certainly not me!)
The bottom line is this: for a relationship to be successful, I think you have to value unity over “winning” the argument or being right. You have to search for truth and understanding instead of wearing your feelings on your sleeve and trying to find fault with the other person. Anything can be mis-interpreted to be hurt feelings…you just have to decide if the relationship is worth the effort to dig a little deeper and put out the effort to make it worthwhile. So, are any of you verbal bumblers? Are you surrounded by bumblers? Do you have any additional insights in how to maintain unity and seek understanding?