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Learning to love being misunderstood

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Kateryna Onyshchuk | Shutterstock

Brian Schumacher - published on 06/01/23

Each individual comes into any situation with an entire history unique to themselves, and they will interpret those situations in a unique way.

Now 13 years ago, I graduated from college with a degree in English. Though I learned many things, a lot of those lessons have faded and blended into the background of general knowledge. However, there is one lesson I learned that stands out more clearly as time goes by.

I took a lot of creative writing workshops during my four years at the university. We wrote everything from poetry to creative nonfiction, but I favored poetry. All the workshops worked the same way: You write a piece, you distribute it to the class, the class takes it home and reads it, then the next week you all discuss its strengths and weaknesses. Pretty good system. 

However, in the last workshop I took, the professor changed things up. On the days where the class would discuss the piece, the author was not allowed to talk. You had to sit there and listen to everyone’s critique without a chance to speak. You sit there and listen to people misread you, misinterpret you, and misunderstand you … and you cannot defend yourself. It’s brutal.

After college I worked as a journalist for seven years. I literally made a career out of writing as clearly as possible and … people still misunderstood. Slowly I began to realize that people will always misunderstand you, and thanks be to God.

It’s through the frustrations of being misunderstood that the variety of human personalities begins to stand out. Each individual comes into any situation with an entire history unique to themselves, and they will interpret those situations in a unique way. 

When I entered into the Catholic faith, I quickly fell in love with the Communion of Saints. In it I found a population bustling with variety, energy … and plenty of misunderstanding. In the seminary I study canonized saints who disagreed with one another, oftentimes emphatically, and sometimes it’s clear they simply did not understand each other. Yet, they are saints because they lived the lives God called them to live. 

God calls each of us to a unique vocation, to a unique life. The more we discover who God calls us to be, the more we open ourselves up to be misunderstood at times. But through all these misunderstandings we can see God’s love of variety. The saints, even in their disagreement, were unified in their love of Christ. If it holds true for those who are dead, it also holds true for those who are living. 

~

This is part of the series called “The Human Being Fully Alive” found here.

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The Human Being Fully Alive
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