November 11

Nobody Understands Me

November 11, 2015

Personal Growth

“People don’t understand me.” I’ve heard those words spoken more times than I can count, almost always with a tone of victimhood and self-righteousness. So let’s examine this oft-repeated statement.

First, is it true that people don’t understand us? Often, yes, but this is unavoidable in a world filled with people who are flawed, afraid, and focused on their own needs. We need not be surprised that such people don’t stop their world to understand us.

Second, why are we so offended when we’re not adequately understood? Because with that assessment, we also associate other judgments:

1. If people don't understand us, they can’t care about us. When I tell people I love them after knowing them a short time, for example, they commonly lift their brows and ask “How? How could you love me? You don’t know me.”

If you encounter a newborn on the side of the road, what would you do? You’d pick the child up, of course, and then you’d hold him and do whatever was required to get the child to shelter, nourishment, and to people who could continue to care for him. You’d care about his happiness without regard to name, race, intelligence, talents, or anything else. You’d care about the child because he needed it, and because you had it to give. Your love would be unconditional.

And so it is possible to love another person without knowing any of the details of their life. They’re alive. They need love. That’s all we need to know about a baby or an adult.

2. If people misunderstand us, they're telling us that there is something wrong with us. No. They’re indicating only their own ignorance or incapacity to understand. They could also be revealing that we are difficult to understand, but again that is a reflection of their inability to grasp who we are. It’s not about us.

3. If people don’t understand us, we are more alone. Wrong. To be sure, we’re less likely to feel connected to people who misjudge us, but those people can’t take from us the love we DO have. If you feel my love for you, for example, no lack of understanding from others can take that love from you. Their lack of understanding cannot make you feel more alone unless you believe judgment #2 above.

4. If people don’t understand us, we have to do whatever it takes to help them understand. This would be true only if we believed judgments 2 and 3. If we simply persist in being ourselves, we’ll find people to understand and love us. We won’t have to force it.

Most people will never understand us completely. We’re fortunate if we find even a few who can. But we can always find someone—even a number of people—who are capable of loving us unconditionally if we are open to the possibility and if we are open to revealing who we are to them. 

If, on the other hand, we cling to our victimy claim that nobody understands us, we pollute our minds and hearts with the associated judgments we just described, and thus we make ourselves feel alone and miserable.

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