Pastor's Blog

I believe misunderstanding is the default in communication between people.  I believe more relationships break, not because anyone intentionally did anything wrong, but because something said or done was misunderstood.

Communication between people has a lot of moving parts, both on the giving end and the receiving end.  If there is a malfunction in just one of those parts, we either miscommunicate or misunderstand.  And it’s easier for one moving part to malfunction than most people realize.

One of those moving parts is assumptions that we make.

I once invited someone offended by something I said to my office after church so we could talk and resolve the situation.  We had what I thought was a wonderful talk and to me the conflict was satisfactorily resolved.

I later discovered the other party had a radically different assessment of our chat.  I had played power politics, they said, inviting them to my office!  Their assessment had nothing to do with the words we spoke, but with their assumptions about my supposed use of position and power.  They assumed I saw and used my office as a representation of the power of my pastoral position and that I intentionally chose to meet there to make them feel insignificant.

I had never thought of myself or my office that way.  I don’t even know how to think that way!  I don’t think that way about people who do think that way.  If you’re trying to impress me with your house, your car, your suit or shoes or haircut, or your office – it goes right over my head.  That stuff isn’t even on my radar.  All that matters to me is your soul, not your accessories or accoutrements.

I don’t understand that language – and I don’t know how to speak it.  My office is just the room where I work.  My big old wooden desk isn’t a power symbol; it was my grandfather’s and is a precious reminder to me of him.  I read and write on it.  (Sometimes I spill my lunch on it.) 

As a pastor, I am conscious, not of my power but my own powerlessness and moreso of the necessity of God’s working if a mind is to be changed.  My desk is powerless.

I invited this soul to my office for one reason:  so I could give them my full attention, avoiding the distractions and interruptions that we would have encountered in the church building after the service. 

I invited them to my office to give them respect – not to subliminally demand theirs.  They read it in precisely the opposite way because of an assumption about leaders that they had learned from someone.  They applied it – or rather, misapplied it – to me.  It was not an intentional wrong or malicious evil.  It was a mistake – a very funny mistake if you know anything about me!

That one tiny moving part malfunctioned, and a misunderstanding was born. 

I didn't offer forgiveness or demand repentance of my friend.  There was an understandable misunderstanding;  there was nothing to forgive.  I dismissed it and moved on.  I let it go.  Love, the apostle says, believes and hopes, all things.  I believed the best and move forward in hope of healing.  A little time was all it took, and the breach healed without so much as a scar.

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