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Will You Understand Or Be Understood?

Daily Stoic Emails

There are very few people who feel completely understood. Starting from a young age, our parents didn’t fully get us. Or maybe it was our teachers. Maybe there is some part of us apparently beyond the reach of our spouse or our peers. This is painful. It’s lonely. It’s rough.

Epictetus said that there were some things that were up to us and some things that were not. While we can do our absolute best–articulating how we feel, speaking up to be heard, going to therapy, asking for help, being patient, being vulnerable–in the end, being understood is never going to be fully up to us. It’s just not. By definition, it depends on other people…and other people are flawed and busy and sometimes very selfish.

But if being understood is not in our control, there is something quite wonderful that is in our control: understanding. We can give what we didn’t or haven’t got (as we’ve written about over at Daily Dad). We can try to really see people, we can really listen. Our own pain and our own loneliness has had an upside–it’s taught us the value of being understood, how much it means, how even a little of it can go a long way.

Instead of despairing, instead of turning inward because we haven’t gotten all that we needed, why don’t we channel that energy toward being a positive difference maker for others?

Focus on what is up to you. Use this as a second chance. We can’t always be understood and certainly we haven’t been, but we can always strive to understand.