By Kristen Duke
Have you had a conversation recently that left you feeling unheard? Judged? Misunderstood?
Maybe you posted something on social media that you saw as thoughtful and kind-hearted and you were then ripped to shreds from someone you loved?
That seems to be happening to a lot of people lately, and it’s quite discouraging. It’s like you can’t win either way, and it feels so defeating and one is left feeling quite vulnerable at the idea of sharing anything, worried you’ll be torn apart by someone you care about.
I’ve felt it, it’s a gut-punch experience. To feel unseen, misunderstood, by people who you feel should know you the best.
A few months ago on my Instagram account, I really wanted to have some political discussions about specific topics, and I admonished my audience to be kind, state their thoughts, and to not reply in the contrary to others. I wanted it to be a space that everyone could a) share their thoughts and not feel attacked and b) allow others to better understand the other side and their thoughts.
That experiment worked fairly well, and I’m grateful I only had to delete a few comments for those that “broke the rules” and commented unkindly towards another.
Just after that, I received a very thoughtful private message from someone that genuinely wanted to be better and said, “Will you give me tips on how to come across as non-judgy? You have a gift for talking about the most difficult subjects with ease and not appear looking down on others who believe differently. Nor do you excuse or apologize for differences in opinion. I feel like I try that, but it often comes across wrong. How do you talk about a difficult subject without looking down on anyone?”
WOW, I felt truly humbled by that comment, and it stopped me in my tracks. I dug deep to think about what advice I could offer, and it wasn’t so easy to articulate.
My jumbled thoughts came out something like this, “I think it’s important to understand one another.”
I continued, “We all do things differently, and to truly ask questions and LISTEN is an important part of being less judgemental.”
This week I heard something online that really resonated with me, “Misunderstanding is actually quite dangerous, understanding is power.”
There is always a story, a deeper meaning behind why someone behaves the way they do, or believes the things they do.
For example, there was an individual in my life who years ago, their actions infuriated me. I found it difficult to be in the same room, our previous experience with each other left me quite enraged to be near them. As I strived to soften my heart (for months, years) and prayed for guidance, the answer always came back to me to seek to understand their background, their perspective, their paradigm. To know a heartbreaking story of theirs, allows your heart to be softened towards them. I found out this person had some challenging experiences in their life that likely produced that rough exterior, and it softened my heart. I understood more.
Everyone has a story that will break your heart, and allow you to love them more, understand them better. EVERYONE has heartbreak. When we can see that, we judge less.
We all come from different perspectives, even when we share the same faith. Our upbringings offer a unique mix of characteristics that form us into the beauty and darkness that we each posess.
We all have sorrows that the eye can’t see that shape how we live, see, and react to life’s situations. If we can strive to look past differences, we could see so much more in common. Seek to understand before being understood.
Asking questions, allowing others to be understood (first), inquiring, will mean the world to the people around you. All the while knowing you may not have that reciprocation. And being ok with that.
Kristen Duke grew up in Texas and Louisiana, and now raising her family in the mountains of Colorado. As a former early morning seminary teacher, she loves teenagers, and is striving to help parents feel more hopeful in raising teens on her instagram @KristenDukeChats. With two sons on/preparing for missions and two girls at home, she’s loving mothering the BIG KIDS.