If you have never been misunderstood, then you have never talked to someone! The normal process of communication goes something like this:
(1) One person (Person A) thinks about something in relationship to their personal vast frame of reference, made up of their entire education and upbringing.
(2) Person A attempts to “encode” it into some meaningful symbols and sounds which we call “language.”
(3) Then, Person A aims this verbal or written nugget at another person (Person B) accompanied by body language, tone, and accent.
(4) Person B who is totally engulfed in his or her own thoughts and frame of reference – based on their life experiences – “hears and/or sees” this nugget.
(5) Person B “decodes” this nugget of communication using his or her own perceptions of language as well as by interpreting the tone and body language of Person A.
(6) Person B ascribes, as best as possible, a meaning to this communication based on how well they have really “heard” it and how they “perceived” it as it was sent their way, as well as taking into account their personal opinion of Person A.
Does that sound like your regular routine done hundreds of times per hour or day? No wonder we often fail to clearly understand one another!
A few weeks ago, I was working on a project with a friend and had to go into the attic of our garage. As I stood up straight (a mistake), I was pierced in the head by a protruding roofing nail poking down in the dark. I bled and bled. My wonderful former missionary wife got me all patched up before we headed to the emergency care facility to check it out and get a renewal of my tetanus shot. The fun began as each medical personnel asked me what happened. I told them I had gotten “a nail in my head.” I received many funny looks and even sillier questions like, “Is it still there?” and “Who would have hammered a nail in your head?” or, “How did you do that?” The miscommunication was really pretty funny as their “decoding” of my clear statement was understood as if Frankenstein were my father!
We all need to seek clarification when we do not understand another person. It is unfortunate that we sometimes fail to do so, rushing to judge the other person’s words or intent. I am amazed by the misunderstandings and the misconceptions in America today regarding Bible-believing Christians. We are followers of the Truth. We believe God does explain the reality of all things. We are not using religion or the Bible as a crutch for our laziness or anti-intellectual bent. Our need today is to live out our faith and the truth of God’s love for all people; showing the world an example of the Spirit-filled life (Ephesians 5:18) and how attractive and blessed it is to know the living God and be His child (John 1:12).
At Grace Christian University we seek to align ourselves with all who take serious Bible learning as important and necessary. We know others have differing opinions and perspectives, but we have the Word of God and the Holy Spirit to help us seek authentic reality. Isn’t this refreshing in this age of “fake news” and propaganda? Please pray for our professors and staff as we prepare for a new year and a new freshman class.
In our world, to misunderstand is normal. Let’s work hard to break through the misunderstandings of others, and the misconceptions others hold of us as Bible believers!
Ken B. Kemper, President