You Don’t Understand Me

“You don’t understand me,” my mom said as she began to cry.

The words stung. I knew they held some truth in them.

I want to be gentle with her – and be lovingly compassionate with her. I can do that most of the time, but then there are those times – when she begins to accuse me falsely or when she goes into a complaining mode – that I get worn down and snap at her. Rather than seeking to understand, I react to the words that spill out of her mouth.

If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. Proverbs 18:13

I read these words the other day and immediately knew they were meant for me. Sometimes I am too quick to answer before I hear what another person is really saying.

Because of Alzheimer’s my mom struggles to retrieve words.

Often what she says is not really what she means at all. Thus, I am getting lots of opportunities to practice listening to her intentions rather than her words. She may want butter and ask for cream. She’ll say her glasses are foggy when she feels dizzy. She’ll say she does not need to shower when what she is expressing is that she needs help in the process.

Living with my mom grants me many opportunities to grow in listening to the meaning behind words. When I do that, my responses connect with what she really is trying to express rather than what bubbles up out of her mouth.

Conflict between any individuals is best addressed by sincerely trying to understand before we speak. 

Words certainly are indicators of what is going on within a person but can be misleading. They are often protective in nature and cover up feelings of fear, hurt, disappointment, rejection, or frustration.  This is especially true in relationships that matter the most to us – those individuals we wish to please and be loved and valued by.

This is certainly true of kids who have not matured yet in their ability to express authentic feelings.

A lack of interest in a subject or a sport or an activity often covers up a fear of failure. For example, when Joey claimed that he did not care about trying hard in soccer, it really meant he cared so much that it hurt to admit his bad attitude in the game that week. When Haddie told me she did not like to work on spelling, I discovered that she felt badly about not having done well on the previous spelling test.

I want to understand others better. 

When I react to words too quickly, however, I spark conflict and confusion. Taking time to ponder and pray over what is really going on, leads me to conversations that reach the heart of the matter.

The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer. Proverbs 15:28.

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