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Misunderstanding & Adam Braverman

6 Comments 29 September 2010

I have done a terrible thing to Adam Braverman.  I have misunderstood him.  I have taken him out of context.  I have taken bits of information about who he is, or statements that he has uttered and literally…summed up his person!  (Yes, I know that he is a fictional character, but go with it!)  I heard two statements come from his mouth (character) and I decided, based on my view, my lens, and what was going on in my life and context, that he had no empathy.

Now…you ask, “What is the big deal about misunderstanding a fictitious character?”  Well, of course nothing will hurt Adam Braverman, but misunderstanding in real life, in real time, is dangerous.  In the same week that I summed up Adam Braverman, I learned that I had been misunderstood and, as a result, I had been mis-characterized by someone I know, but hardly know well.

This person had decided who I was and chosen, purposely, to ‘sum up my life’ to another friend.  This type of misunderstanding creates terrific chaos in our lives and yet, it reminded me of how easily we ‘misunderstand’ each other when we are looking to make our point.  For me, I wanted to talk about empathy, or the general struggle that we all have with judging one another without considering being in another person’s shoes.  So, Adam Braverman became my straw man, someone who was easily set-up and easily knocked-down.

I am sorry that I wrote about Adam Braverman without understanding who he really is, who his character represents.  The first response I got was from a dear friend who has a special needs daughter.  She told me I had pegged him wrongly, and in fact, Adam Braverman reminded her of her husband and mine.  He was a very sincere and empathetic character.  The incident brought me full-circle, face-to-face with how quickly we decide who people are and what they are about.  Not just make-believe people, or celebrities, but those we encounter in our everyday lives.  We generally do not see people for who they are, but instead, we see them as who we ‘think’ they are and those conclusions are usually based on our own set of preconceptions. Our insecurities, our need to feel superior, our need to defend our own lives and how we see the world at large, are all enmeshed in the way we see others…our lens is terribly blurred.

Being on the short end of being misunderstood offers a couple of options.  You can become angry and defensive and literally, try to redeem yourself, or you can rest in the truth of who you are and how you have lived…and choose to let it go.

I will never forget Billie Mills.  She was one of my 7th grade teachers.  I don’t really remember what she taught me in class, but I vividly remember her looking me dead in the eye (crying eyes at the time) and telling me these two things:

1-Don’t ever write anything down unless you intend for it to be read.

2-Never defend a rumor that isn’t true.

The first is easier than the second, especially when your very person hood is easily misunderstood in the culture in which you live your daily life, but it is not impossible.  The older I get, the more comfortable I become with who I am and how God has made me…I am settling in to being a strong woman, who not only has a voice, but chooses to use it, especially when she sees injustice.  I am an advocate for women, especially those who have lost their voices altogether.  I am loyal, fiercely so, and this can get in the way of those who want me to simply go away.  All of these characteristics make me a target for those who have a very narrow definition of what a ‘good’ woman is supposed to be.  I don’t fit the mold…I don’t color within the lines.  I don’t say this with some ‘oh, look at me, the big, bad rebel’ but with an honest appraisal of who I am and how that fits into my culture.

As a result, I am often misunderstood…taken out of context and yes, just as I mis-characterized Adam Braverman, I have been easily mis-characterized.  It makes you take account of your life.  It makes you question who you are sometimes.  But more and more, the answer that arrives at the end of that questioning is a positive one, an affirming one.  That is one of the beautiful things about age and life experience, we have the option of coming into a greater appreciation for who we are, or we further hide behind a mask that enables us to please or appease others.  I am choosing a greater appreciation for who I am and what I have to offer to the world around me.  It is not an easy path as it takes belief, in a God who made me, and faith in a God who loves me.

I can’t apologize to Adam Braverman, but I do apologize to anyone (any real people) that I have misunderstood and thus, mis-characterized throughout the years.  I know those people probably aren’t the people reading me here, but I wanted to say it anyway.  I think God has a humorous way of humbling us by allowing us to experience the very things we have perpetuated in our pasts.  For me, I have been on the long end, dishing it out, as I did with Adam, and now I have been on the short end of this stick.  I have to go with Billie Mills advice though, I am choosing to write it down, in hopes that it will be read, and I am choosing to allow my life to speak for itself.

Cheers to you Adam Braverman, and cheers to all who choose to live their lives with courage, even under the cloud of misunderstanding!

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6 Comments so far

  1. Kristy says:

    I think very often we are carried along by the wave of prevailing opinion without really considering the issues. Someone says, “Oh, he’s ________” and we think, “Oh yes, he must be that. *That’s* the problem.” We make a judgement. We file the person or the circumstance in whatever little compartment we think fits and then we move on in our minds. We don’t empathize. We don’t love. We don’t allow that person to speak from the fullness of who they are instead of just judging them for that one situation. I know I am guilty.

    But who am I to respond about this issue? I often misunderstood *myself*.

    • Jorja says:

      kristy, so true…so true. the bottom line is that life is far more complex than we are really willing to acknowledge. simple lines with neat little compartments make us feel safe, but in reality, when the situation is turned, we want flexibility in the same boundaries that we have neatly placed around someone else. human nature. i have learned the hard way that neat, tight lines colored in black and white are not safe at all.

  2. Chrissy says:

    I was the judger this past week, making false assumptions about someone I love dearly. I knew I was in trouble in my analysis of the situation when I started out with me instead of them. I am always telling others how important it is to see the bigger story and not just their small part…assume the best about peoples motives until shown otherwise. I was humbled as God clearly showed me I was doing to others what I dared others to do to me. It forced me to admit my own defensive heart and ridiculous ability to hurt others by misunderstanding them.

    Desperately needing grace again,

    • Jorja says:

      chrissy, i have come to love the phrase, “fighting for my life,” when i think about how i peg someone or take them down based on my need to justify my own life. we all do it, and like you so simply stated, it is when we start the equation with ‘me.’ love you, appreciate your humility.

  3. Judy Helfand says:

    Hi Jorja,
    Empathy or lack of empathy has been in the news a lot this week. Your message here is so vital because we are all human and some times the life we are experiencing over- shadows our ability to see beyond ourselves. We all do this.
    Your teacher, Billie Mills, was so smart and all of us can and should learn from people like her. The other day I heard an expert referring to the tragic story about Tyler Clementi. This expert reminded us that in today’s age of technology comments, posts, videos, tweets are almost impossible to retract and it is a 24 hour world. No more can children or even adults escape to home, as technology follows us.
    The bottom line is that we just never really know someone’s whole story, so the benefit of the doubt is the best course.
    Happy October…and thanks for writing.

    • Jorja says:

      judy, your comments about our virtual world and how it is a 24 hour world are SO TRUE! there seems to be no safe haven for our children, or for us. the story of tyler clementi brought me to tears. he was someone’s baby boy. he was a human being that deserved honor and dignity. this virtual world makes it far too easy to attack those whom we dislike, disagree with or even hate. it enlivens our cowardice as we do and say things from these screens that we would not even consider doing face to face. those of us who use the medium must consider our far-reaching affect. ALWAYS! thanks for your wisdom!

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things to make you wonder~

“I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along. I am aging and eaten and have done my share of eating too. I am not washed and beautiful, in control of a shining world in which everything fits, but instead am wondering awed about on a splintered wreck I've come to care for, whose gnawed trees breathe a delicate air, whose bloodied and scarred creatures are my dearest companions, and whose beauty bats and shines not in its imperfections but overwhelmingly in spite of them...” Annie Dillard

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