“You see, brothers and sisters, our hero, the fiery pilgrim, never saw the point of love without understanding.”
– from the Broadway musical Passing Strange
There isn’t one person on this planet who hasn’t been misunderstood at one point or another.
I think that’s part of the point: we’re here on this earth to try to understand each other. This is the very essence of communication: going from a place of misunderstanding to a place of understanding.
If I understood you completely as soon as we first met, then I would have no need to sit down and have a conversation with you. In fact, I would have no desire to get to know you because I would understand you so well already that you would not need to be present for me to understand you any further.
I, for one, am happy that we often misunderstand one another: our misunderstandings give us an excuse to get a little closer to each other. (If you notice, whenever we don’t understand what someone is telling us, we literally lean in closer to them. Our bodies come into closer proximity to the other person. I find this fascinating: misunderstanding is the mysterious magnetic force that keeps us attracted to one another. We want to solve the mystery that is the other person, and the only way to do that is to get near them!)
But a misunderstanding isn’t always a wonderful thing. In fact, a misunderstanding can really hurt us.
The Point of Love Without Understanding
I’m learning that often it isn’t the misunderstanding that is hurting us, it is what we think that misunderstanding means.
We often mistake a lack of understanding for a lack of love. But the truth is that someone can love you unconditionally and yet not understand you at all.
In the Tony-award winning musical, Passing Strange, the narrator tells the audience that the protagonist, a young artist, doesn’t see the point of love without understanding. In fact, the protagonist leaves his family for Europe because, although his family loves him very much, he believes his family doesn’t fully understand him–and he can’t stand that.
Inevitably, over the course of the musical, the protagonist learns that he underestimated the importance of love without understanding. He learns that he doesn’t need to be understood completely in order to be in a loving relationship with his family.
Many of us may have family and friends like those of the protagonist in Passing Strange: they love us unconditionally, they support us, they respect us, they may even be our biggest fans, but unfortunately they don’t completely understand us.
It is frustrating not to be completely understood by our loved ones, but we also must be fair to them: there will be many people who won’t completely understand where we’re coming from–and many of those people will be people who love us dearly.
But it is not their job to understand every aspect of who are–it is their job to love and support us unconditionally.
A relationship cannot work without a basic level of understanding, but a relationship can work with several levels of misunderstanding
Some of you may disagree with me on this, but I don’t think it’s fair to demand complete understanding from everyone. If someone can understand me and love me, then that’s absolutely wonderful. If someone doesn’t understand me and doesn’t love me, then who the frak needs them? But if someone doesn’t understand me but still loves me, then I still want them by my side.
Because I know the point of love without understanding: the point is so to have people around me who are willing to give me a big, strong hug even though they have no idea what I’m talking about. The point of love without understanding is to be gifted with a tenderness that needs no prerequisites. It’s to get a glimpse of true, unconditional love. The kind of love that is a miracle to behold.
Love without understanding means that I am already so close to you that I need not even lean into you to know your mystery. Our closeness is evident–instant–and any confusion between us is just static. It’s an illusion. I am here with you, I adore you, despite the fact that I don’t even comprehend the words coming out of your mouth. (What use are words anyway in matters of the heart and spirit? They all fail to express my deep love for you.)
Who needs understanding, anyway, when one can feel what it’s like to be properly loved? In a choice between being deeply understood and being deeply loved, I would choose being loved any day. (In a way, being deeply loved is the deepest kind of understanding that can be granted to you.)
If people love you, but don’t fully understand you, that’s no excuse to let them go. Even though they may not fully understand you at this moment, their love is proof that they are willing to try.
Give them another shot. They may surprise you.
Today’s Courage Exercise
Have you shut out someone who loved you just because they didn’t fully understand you (or your passion)? Have you been unable to see the point of love without understanding? If this is true for you, then, today, recognize that it’s unfair to demand complete understanding of everyone who loves you. What’s more important than a person’s ability to fully understand you is the fact that they love and support you with every fiber of their being. Accept their gift of love and support and go forward, unencumbered by the need to be fully understood by your loved ones.
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