Monday, February 15, 2010

Today, one friend - or shall I say, acquaintance - called me up, wanting to keep in touch with me. The thing is, I was very reluctant to keep in touch with him. It's because of his strange mannerisms and perhaps immature way of relating with others, such as persistently sending a lot of people the same msg: "Hi. How's life." and some comments like "I saw someone who looks like you." So I avoided replying his SMSes, because felt very awkward and quite put-off. I had tried to explain to him that this is not very socially appropriate behaviour before, but he didn't get it - and in fact, was offended as he felt that I had misunderstood his intentions of friendship. So this SMS-sending went on for a long, long time.

Finally, he called me on my handphone today. I answered, not knowing who it was. And oh, it was him. In a nutshell, he wanted to find out if I had changed my hp no, and so on. I didn't know how to answer him directly... so I beat the bush as diplomatically as I could. But he managed to find out that I had indeed received his SMSes, but never replied. Caught in that trap, I asked him whether other people had mentioned about this to him before, this incessant SMS-sending.

He replied, "Oh, a lot of people told me this too."

I gasped inwardly. "Huh... ok... how come you are still sending me SMSes then?"

He said, "Because I want to keep in touch with you. They misunderstood me."

I almost did a facepalm. But paused and thought about it...

It's ironic. Because I had the same kind of attitude as well. I had done immature things before in the past, and had expected others to understand me. E.g. my emotional outbursts, my social immaturity and so on.

I guess I wanted to laugh at myself. I'm no different from this friend, actually... it's just the scale of what we do.

Still, I weighed my answers, and then told him directly that this is not a socially acceptable thing to do - spamming ppl with SMSes... told him I understood his heart in wanting to connect with others, but this is NOT the right way to do it. Why bang your head against the wall when there's a door? And I told him these words: "It is better to be misunderstood than to misunderstand." (I knew that I was teaching myself, even as I was teaching him...)

I think I did my best to try and help him understand the consequences of his social immaturity and eccentricity, but I'm afraid he still didn't seem to get the message clearly... his tone of voice simply said that he expected me to understand him anyway. And he said that ok, ok, I won't send you any more SMSes.

So after hanging up, I pondered about the whole thing.

I think I must have hurt him by avoiding him for 2 years, and not wanting to reply. And yet there was another friend who did the same thing to me for 2 years.

I corrected him for his (not very reasonable) expectation that others should understand him and accommodate to his behaviour, and yet I've been doing the same thing too.

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

It was a very sobering moment, as I think I can really identify with both sides... the pain of being ignored despite persistent attempts to reconnect... and the awkwardness of wanting to avoid. Both sides see each other as selfish.

The expectation of wanting to be understood, yet not understanding the other's need and feelings.

You know, it's really a very strange, yet enlightening moment.

The pain of a socially immature person trying to connect with others in the only way he knows, and yet that attempt is causing other people so much pain that it only drives them further away.

Who can save us then, from this dreadful Catch-22? Someone has to break through this impasse - and pay the price needed to do that. Grace.

Thank God for all the past experiences that I've gone through. I remember crying to Peter two years ago about all these things that I was struggling with... and my questions to God why did I have to go through all this pain in the first place. And now... I think... I see a bigger picture unfolding. The picture of God's grace. God made His Son who knew no sin to become sin for us, so that in his Son we might become the righteousness of God.

I think one very practical way to help a socially immature person... is not to just correct his actions, but also see AND appreciate his heart behind what he/she does. And to identify with his hurts and pains too. I think it's critical not to judge... BUT it is essential to correct his actions, because of the effect it has on others. Not to condemn, BUT not to condone either. And the most impt thing is to see the heart... and affirm his motives if it's good. Not to act as a guard, but as a guide. One who has been through it before... therefore he can show the way better.

And also to deliver the other person from the perils of ignorance. Even though the person is sincere... he can be sincerely wrong. Like going into a minefield innocently.

And to show mercy, because we too need mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgement!

No wonder Jesus loved the tax collectors and the prostitutes... and called the religious leaders vipers and hypocrites.

No wonder the sinners loved Jesus... and the religious people plotted His murder.

Wow. A LOT of things to think about.

I think this is one more aspect of God's calling for me.


Jia Xiang said...

Wow... that is quite painful and hard to go through... Goo thing God helped you there yeah? Keep on persevering! Someday you will get what you are looking for... Well... at least in terms of this delicate balance...

Anonymous said...

Actually I think it's equally important to be understood as to understand.

I think that as much as it is appropriate, we should communicate clearly what we think and feel inside in order not to be misunderstood.

Are we too afraid to tell others exactly what we think and feel and how we make certain decisions? If we are, we enable ourselves to be unnecessarily misunderstood.

I think the only way one can really understand another is when the another is honest or willing to make herself or himself known, or else we are constantly doing guess work. We are after all, not God who understands Man completely.

Jia Xiang said...

For me, so long as I am willing to risk the possibility of conflict and, perhaps, losing the friendship, I will do what I can to communicate to the other party to make myself clear.

Letting them know who I am and how I function is equally as important as knowing who they are and how they function in the communication. If there is only output and no input, all is lost.

I am willing to risk it for the chance of strengthening the relationship. It has always been this way for me. o_O

yeu@nn said...

Thanks, Shuyi and Jia Xiang. :) Think I've experienced both sides, and ideally, yes, it would be good that you can communicate clearly.

But what if and when there are times that communications is not possible, and one party is simply unwilling to talk, even though the other seeks to clarify, to understand and hopefully make himself/herself understood? The possibility of further anger and mistrust is bound to become a vicious cycle...

I was thinking... what if two parties come to the table, both insisting that the other side understand him/her as well?

What if we sought to understand the other person... and if we understood the other party... we would understand... and our own expectations become changed in the process?

Could that possibly be... grace? True, I'll have to live with the being misunderstood... but precisely, grace is free for the recipient - because it costs the giver so much.

But, yes, it is tough to negotiate this fine line. I do know quite a fair amount about certain things I do, that may seem strange and illogical to others at times, but I know why I did what I did. But if I were to explain my thinking process, I'm also worried that the other person may further misunderstand. (I had cases like that. But ah, when I pressed further, explaining more clearly, the other person understood.)

But it did annoy me a bit, because I mean (and no offense here), it does seem to me that we seem to go a bit easy on the sisters when it comes to letting their emotions dictate their reactions and responses, instead of letting the Word of God guide their responses.

That's the main thing that I was mentioning on my 'famous' Facebook note, actually. Hmm. What does the Bible say about this, actually?

(Haha... controversial statement, I know. And bound to get me misunderstood. But enlighten me please...)

Weizhu said...

God's standard is clear. I think deep in our hearts, we all know the right thing to do. Love our neighbour as ourselves. It's so simple to understand, and doesn't need much pontificating actually. Yet it's so hard to put into practice. This is the tension we all feel.

Let's be honest. We all struggle with this. We're all woefully short of the standard. Perhaps we're even sinning.

It's not just people who don't fit in socially. What about all the other people we pass by everyday? An unpleasant colleague? A sarcastic boss? A beggar on the street? Inconsiderate people? Loved ones who take us for granted?

Case in point: beggars. Oh, how I have often just walked away, thinking that 1) maybe they're lying, 2) the state will take care of them (and yet not lift a finger to dial MCYS) If I had just a little more compassion, perhaps I would have given some money. But you know what? Giving money is the easy way out. Yes, the beggar is grateful, but that's not the point. Our conscience is eased, but have we really loved our neighbour as ourselves? Money will let them feed their stomachs, but love will feed their spirits. As I write this, I feel ashamed, because I know I'm so far short of what true love would do.