Do you go through life feeling misunderstood? Are there times when you wish you had someone who “gets” you and you can feel comfortable with? As I continue meditating on the notion of being unequally yoked (2 Corinthians 6:14), I reflect on how on the surface you can have the veneer of Christian unity in the Church yet feel disjointed socially and emotionally. You can be in a room full of brothers and sisters in Christ, yet still feel alone. You can be what seems and feels like the misfit in the family whose voice falls on silent ears. Your partner can look straight into your eyes and you’re still invisible to them. You can even be the employee whose efforts at better quality work goes unnoticed.
There are many ways to experience being unequally yoked in life, and the resulting effects can range from a slight annoyance to utter devastation. Some of the roots of feeling misunderstood can stem from:
- Lack of communication
- Lack of the ability to empathize when (ineffective) communication is present
- Lack of acceptance/tolerance of the other’s personality traits, frailties, and tendencies
- Low or excessively high expectations of the other person
On the 1st root, how can anyone understand each other when there is no discussions of feelings and perspectives? Where there is no communication, there is no union of heart, minds, or spirit. It is one thing to have moments of self-reflection and “down-time” to process the stresses of the day (I am one who benefits from periodic solitude, not too often though!), and it is a completely different situation to consistently neglect/ignore each other, many times attempting to avoid conflicts. Even our Living God highlights the importance of communication not only with each other, but especially with Himself through a relationship with Christ (Ephesians 2:13-18, 1 Timothy 2:5), honest prayers (Matthew 6:6, Psalms 55:17) , study of Scriptures (Romans 15:4, Romans 16:26), the counsel of His Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10-14), and throughout His Creation (Psalms 19:1, Romans 1:20, Hebrews 11:3 ). Therefore, actually communicating with your partner/other party is one of the first issues to be addressed.
When it comes to the inability to empathize with the other person, this is where I’ve seen and experienced alot of difficulty in feeling understood. Eventhough one may try to discuss their feelings and thoughts on an issue/topic, how far does mutual understanding go when the other person can “see” where you’re coming from mentally, spiritually, and emotionally? This is not to say that the other person must always agree with you to understand you. But, to empathize means you can, as the ol’ saying goes, “put yourself in the other person’s shoes”, which doesn’t mean you end up agreeing with their opinions. In other words, you should be able to take a moment to take stalk of what your partner is trying to say, put yourself in their mental-emotional “space” or environment/situation, and then try to envision/experience how you would feel/think if you were in the same predicament as them. This doesn’t require being “like” them or changing your personality to fit theirs, but it does require the neglected art of listening. Being empathetic not only helps you gain a better perspective on the other person’s feelings, but also offers a glimpse of their personality which leads to being better understood.
Lack of tolerance or acceptance of another’s traits, etc. is also a challenging problem to overcome. Are you constantly frustrated with your partner, friend, or colleague? Do you find more tranquility when not around that person? Are there certain ways or nuances of the person that lead to friction, arguments, and annoyance? The first area I believe is worth acknowledging is the simple fact that no one within themselves is perfect and according to Scripture, we have all have “fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23-24, 1 John 1:8), however through Jesus we are given His righteousness where His strength is made perfect in our weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:19). Knowing this allows us to bear with one another as we recognize the need to encourage each other in Christ (Colossians 3:13). That being said, it is also important to honestly review your compatibility status, if you actually like the other person and have basic respect for them as a fellow follower of Christ (James 2:13). Look at each other’s “deal-breakers” and see if there are areas that you can compromise on outside of those “deal breakers”. If there are too many deal-breakers sought to be compromised on, you may have a very “unequally yoked” situation on your hands!
Last, but certainly not least, is the gravity of/complete absence of standards placed on the other person. If expectations on behavior are too high, you leave an imperfect fellow member in Christ no room to breathe and authentically be themselves. You not only create an impossible ladder in character to climb, but also develop an environment of exaltedness that should be humbled (Matthew 23:12) and unnecessary grief. It also reflects how inflexible you are with your own shortcomings and human frailties. You should not only forgive others of their imperfections, but also forgive yourself as The Lord has so graciously forgiven us (Ephesians 4:32). Don’t make it impossible for others to be in your presence! However, not having any expectations on how to be treated is also not beneficial in any relationship. You cannot expect another person to understand who you are if you don’t understand yourself in Christ (1 Corinthians 6:11). It is also unfair to assume someone can understand you without expressing some type of framework on how you’d like to be treated. It showcases the point that you should “treat others as you’d like to be treated” (Matthew 7:12).
As you can see, there are plenty of grounds upon which a person can be misunderstood and a relationship can be plagued with strife. The world we temporarily live in (until Jesus Christ’s return John 14:3) is filled with so much strain that it is truly refreshing to experience an earthly relationship with a believer whom you feel “at-home” with. We as true Christians are already “foreigners” in this world (John 15:19) and “peculiar” to the ways/treatment of this world (1 Peter 2:9), therefore why make it harder on ourselves by not seeking to comprehend each other? I certainly know there are things that I can improve upon to understanding others, and the first step in that is awareness of the reasons why we feel misunderstood. My prayer is that in reading this, you will also be encouraged to find better ways to communicate, empathize, forbear, and respect others that will transform you from being “unequally yoked” to Equallyoked!