“Just to clarify…” If I had a dollar for every email I sent with those words, I don’t think I’d have to send them anymore. I’d invest those dollars and retire. I am frequently second guessing my understanding of things. Can you relate?
I have noticed that people seem more distracted and less prepared lately, me included. Those qualities do not make for clearer communication. I frequently want to interject “Wait, what did you mean by that?”
And sometimes, even with our best efforts and preparation, our words land with meanings which are different than we intended. It can be a good thing when someone second guesses their first inclination about what we meant. Written words are especially prone to misinterpretation.
The texting world is a great example. I think emojis are intended to help me understand the spirit with which a message is sent, but still I second guess. Apparently, each emoji has an assigned emotion, but I don’t know what they are. I have to interpret the face and let’s be real, a wink could mean a lot of different things!
I saw something like this the other day. I have recreated it as I remember it.
When I saw the graphic, I read the two notes to myself in very different voices. It was second nature to me to assume one was a promise and the other a threat. Contemplating this brought to mind two other instances I’ve encountered lately where I second guessed the meaning of a message and its implication.
The first was when someone told me that I seem very content. I smiled and thanked them, because it made me feel good. But then I second guessed their motives. Had that been a compliment or an accusation? What did they mean by that? I am happy with what I have and who I am. But did they mean it to say that I should driving and striving for improvement? I’m still not sure.
The other thing was something Jesus said. And it wasn’t so much a matter of not understanding what He meant. His words are living and active (Hebrews 4:12), meaning they hit differently, depending on the condition of my heart. This is what He said:
“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”Matthew 6:6
If I read these words during my quiet time, with my Bible open and my heart pure, they are sweet, aren’t they? They reassure me that, even when nobody else can see me doing the right thing, God sees. It makes me feel like I don’t need anybody else’s recognition or praise.
But yikes! The words here say that God sees what I do in secret. What if I’m doing something sneaky and naughty? This verse takes on a whole different meaning under those circumstances, doesn’t it? Suddenly, it is anything but reassuring. I feel like a deer in the headlights, second guessing what I think I’m getting away with.
To be honest, I don’t think we can ever get away from misunderstandings entirely. Maybe we all do well to cultivate a second nature of second guessing. But I want to focus mine to be more productive.
Instead of fussing with insecurity and obsessing over what was meant by the little comments people make, I want to use my second guess to give people the benefit of the doubt.
Sometimes, believing the best of someone will literally mean I need to wait and find out what they meant. Other times, it will just be a decision I make in my heart to believe the best of them. After all, God knows the truth and He rewards what nobody else sees. And I never have to second guess His word!
Are you a second guesser? Do words return to your mind with an uncertainty as to what they mean? Or maybe you are characterized by confidence and rarely think twice about things. I guess we all have a second nature inclined one way or the other. What is yours?