The Need to Explain

Is it needed?

There was a time I felt the need to explain myself better:

  • These are my beliefs
  • These are my objections
  • These are my aspirations

The need to explain wasn’t for acceptance or approval. It was to ensure there could be no misunderstanding of what I was saying. Do not confuse me with this person or this group’s beliefs. We have different beliefs. His are his. Hers are hers. Mine are mine.

As each year passes, I realize how little the need to explain is needed. No matter what you write or say someone will always misunderstand your intent. And, if you do not write it or say it or profess it in the exact same words or in the exact same way as the individual reading or listening, then again, you will be misunderstood. This happens when someone trusts their own perceptions, even when their perception is wrong.

If you stand over a puddle of water and drop a rock into the water, are you the reflection before or after the ripple, or both? What reflection is your true reflection?

When we speak, we should say what we mean. But even if we speak clearly and use right speech, wrong perception can still be at play with the listener. Then the question becomes, does it matter if someone misunderstands me? Is it for me to explain?

The answer is often no.

With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall. Speak what you think now in hard words, and tomorrow speak what tomorrow thinks in hard words again, though it contradict every thing you said today. — ‘Ah, so you shall be sure to be misunderstood.’ — Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood?

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

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By Jeffrey Pillow

Jeffrey Pillow is an American short story writer, memoirist, and poet. He is the author of The Lady Next Door. His writing has been published in Urge Magazine, The Nervous Breakdown, 16 Blocks, USA Today, Sports Illustrated, TheBody.com, New York Times, Washington Post, and Richmond Times-Dispatch.

He grew up in the small town of Phenix, Virginia, population: 200, and now lives in Charlottesville with his wife, two kids, and a dog named Mozzarella Cheese. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia where he was a Rainey Scholar. This is his blog.