I dumped a girl by instant message.
It was pretty classic. If you haven’t figured it out, instant messages and texting is a pretty awful way to communicate anything more than “get a loaf of bread while you’re out.” Anything that requires any emotional sensitivity isn’t going to work.
Since we were having a long distant relationship, we I.M.ed a lot, (as the hip kids called it back then). Then we got into an argument over something petty and stupid, which was our habit. She was I.M.ing me out pretty hard, as I could tell by the constant nagging “ping” sound of new messages coming through while I tried to ignore her by watching TV. Then I I.M.ed her that we were through, and signed off. I clicked the mouse button really hard, which is the I.M. equivalent of slamming the phone or door. The I.M. screen actually said, “Matt has signed off. Hard.” I was pretty satisfied with myself.
She called me later to tell me she had not meant to say what she had said.
But we live and die by our words. And it got me thinking about all the times we put our feet in our mouths. Whose fault is it when people don’t understand what we’re trying to say?
It’s fun to hang people with their own words.
Last night, I watched Matt Lauer’s interview with George W. Bush. I really enjoy studying Presidential history. Doesn’t matter if I like the President in question or not. It was a really interesting interview. Bush said the darkest time of his presidency was after Katrina when Kanye West got on naitonal TV and accused him of not caring about black people.
Guess what one of the top Twitter trends was last night. George W. Bush. Guess what the top tweet was circulating. Something like, “F— Bush! He’s a war criminal! If his darkest moment is being called a racist, then he couldn’t have cared about Katrina.”
It’s fun to destroy people with their own words, and if you’re the type of person who thinks 9/11 was an inside job or Rosie O’Donnell is a genius, then it’s likely you think Bush really didn’t care about Katrina. The half of the country that doesn’t hate George W. Bush probably thinks Obama really believes the Republicans are his enemies.
Recently, a South African pastor declared that Jesus was HIV positive. Of course, Christians have been lighting up the internet with amazing analyses of why this is obviously wrong. One, Mary was a virgin. Two, Jesus wasn’t a junkie or promiscuous. Three, HIV didn’t exist. Like we need to be told any of this.
Am I the only one who understands this?
You know, while everyone is convulsing every time someone says something controversial, I’m usually the one thinking to myself, “Am I the only one who understands what they were trying to say.”
I don’t know what you think of President Bush, and I don’t care. That tweet is ridiculous. It is absurd to say that the President had no cares about Katrina.
The pastor in South Africa cannot really think Jesus was shooting up with infected hypodermic needles. He’s trying to tell a culture overflowing with HIV that Jesus knows their pain. Is it a dumb thing to try to make Jesus the poster child for your cause? Maybe. But I understood what he was saying.
And if you don’t understand what Bush or Obama or the South African was saying, then your temperature probably just rose when I said I did. If you think those people are ignorant, racist, or just despicable, then I am too because I understand them…
…or am I?
Is misunderstanding in the ear of the beholder?
Guys, you’ve been in this place. Your lady isn’t understanding your perfectly articulate series of grunts and you get in a disagreement because of miscommunication. The only problem I’ve had in my marriage, and the biggest disputes I had with my parents were caused by miscommunication and misunderstanding. It’s going to happen. No big deal.
The real problem is when we decide we’d rather miscommunicate. We’d rather not give the other person the benefit of the doubt. We assume they’re going to say something awful, and we hear what we want to hear. You know how hard it is to remove your foot from your mouth. Once people think you’re a raving escapee from a mental institution, it’s hard to convince them otherwise. We learn from an early age to endlessly rip on people when they misspeak and never let them live it down. We’ve been doing it ever since that kid said he loved ice cream sandwiches, and we asked him if he was going to marry an ice cream sandwich.
We even do it with church too. We’d rather hear what we want to hear. I’d much rather listen to a pastor that validates what I already think so I can nod my head and whisper “Amen” a lot. But as soon as I don’t like what I’m hearing, I’ve got that urge to tune out rather than hear the guy out.
Why did I dump that girl? I was looking for a good reason to already, and it presented itself. Relationships break down when people when people choose not to communicate. People stop listening to others when they assume the other has the worst intentions. My wife and I haven’t split over a miscommunication because we still assume the other has good intentions.
What’s the biggest miscommunication you’ve ever had with your spouse, your boss, your kids, your parents, your pastor, or God himself? Whose foot was whose mouth? Are you the type of person to give someone the benefit of the doubt when they say something questionable, or do you take their words at face value, and let them hang by their words? How do you know someone doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt anymore?