I heard someone say this week that “You are free to be misunderstood.” He followed that statement with something like this, “If you are free, then others are free too, and they will misunderstand you at times. If you go around obsessed with correcting everyone’s misunderstandings then you become enslaved.”
That’s pretty good stuff.
We are free. And with that freedom comes the reality that not everyone will like us, not everyone will understand us, and that others will have a complete misunderstanding of our thoughts and motives. We can’t chase that around and make it our obsession to right every wrong, because then we are truly enslaved. Enslaved to how others view us. Enslaved to what others are saying about us. Enslaved to correcting every misunderstanding.
Here is a great scriptural example of this concept. Nehemiah had led a group of captives from Persia to Jerusalem for the express purpose of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. As he led the people in this great work for God, he faced every opposition imaginable. One form of this opposition came in chapter 6 when people were making up stories about Nehemiah to get him off the wall and do him harm. Read what the text says.
Nehemiah 6:1-9 Now when Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies heard that I had built the wall and that there was no breach left in it (although up to that time I had not set up the doors in the gates), Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come and let us meet together at Hakkephirim in the plain of Ono.” But they intended to do me harm. And I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?” And they sent to me four times in this way, and I answered them in the same manner. In the same way Sanballat for the fifth time sent his servant to me with an open letter in his hand. In it was written, “It is reported among the nations, and Geshem also says it, that you and the Jews intend to rebel; that is why you are building the wall. And according to these reports you wish to become their king. And you have also set up prophets to proclaim concerning you in Jerusalem, ‘There is a king in Judah.’ And now the king will hear of these reports. So now come and let us take counsel together.” Then I sent to him, saying, “No such things as you say have been done, for you are inventing them out of your own mind.” For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done.” But now, O God, strengthen my hands.
Did you see that Nehemiah recognized the great work of God he was doing? He could not come off the wall to come down with those who were just trying to cause problems. He also knew that the stories others were telling were just fabricated in their own minds. Nehemiah had the focus, strength and wisdom to keep on the work when lesser men would have come off that wall to defend themselves.
You are free to be misunderstood. There are times to clear up misunderstandings, but then there are times you realize that you will just enslave yourself going around trying to change everybody’s misconceptions. Even Job got caught in this trap, he got lost in justifying himself instead of defending God (Job 32:2; 40:8), so if it happened to Job, it can happen to us.