This line didn’t used to resonate with me. I used to think it was more of the martyrdom belief, sacrificing your own needs to put others first. Like a co-dependent.
Then the connection clicked. I could see what St. Francis was saying. If we’re always wanting to be understood by everyone, we’re going to feel frustrated and disappointed. How many times have you tried to explain yourself and someone simply refused to listen, or thought you were coming from Mars, or tried to debate you, or lacked any effort at all in wanting to understand you? How many times have well-intended “clarifying” conversations turned into an episode of right fighting, anger or tears?
It’s not that we don’t want to be understood, or that we’re not worthy of being understood. Of course we do, and are. But we get a lot farther in healing relationships when we try to understand where other people are coming from. This helps us stop personalizing and internalizing things people say or do. Understanding creates empathy. When we start asking how we can better understand why people do the things they do, we can heal our perspective, heal our heart, relationships, and our lives.
St. Francis was saying, I know people can be tough, and relationships can be hard. If you spend your life trying to win the approval of someone, or control what people think of you, or worry what they think of you and whether they respect you, you will never be happy.
Stop caring what people think. Stop assuming you know what they think. Be a graciously direct communicator and let the rest go because it’s crazy making. There’s only so much time in the day. You can spend it trying to force people to understand you, or you can say, “Hey, my time is valuable. I don’t want to volunteer time and energy to fruitless nonsense. So today, I’m going to focus on making peace with myself because the more I love and accept myself, the less I need validation from others.”
As the saying goes, “What you think of me is none of my business.”
The Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, the faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.