"Many years ago, a woman touring in Europe cabled her husband the following message: "Have found wonderful bracelet. Price seventy-five thousand dollars. May I buy it?" Her husband immediately responded with the message: "No, price too high." However, the telegraph operator missed one small detail in his transmission — the signal for a comma after the word "No." The wife in Europe received the reply: "No price too high." Elated by the good news, she bought the bracelet. When she returned to the United States and showed the new bracelet to her shocked husband, he learned the value of a comma and communication." - Unknown
That's an extreme example of the value of good communication. At a recent Weekend to Remember getaway, the speaker shared "You cannot not communicate. The problem is the way we communicate." The way we communicate can cause friction at home, school, work, and church. God, in His divine design, has given us instruction in His Word to help us communicate in a way that pleases Him and builds and fortifies the relationships in your life. Let's go straight to Ephesians for the communication principles God laid out for us...
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. -Ephesians 4:25-32
In Ephesians 4:25-32, God gives us four principles to help us communicate well in every relationship. Ready?
#1 BE HONEST!
- In order to be HONEST, verse 25 tells us we must SPEAK. Yes, you've got to have that hard conversation. By not talking with your spouse about that hard thing you don't want them to know about, you are lying by omission, which got Jacob in trouble with his father in law, Laban, back in Genesis 31:20.
- In order to be HONEST, verse 25 also tells us we must speak TRUTH. You've got to share what is really going on, what you really feel, not some shade of the truth.
- In order to be HONEST, verse 25 tells us we must speak truth LOVINGLY. There are ways to share that cause greater hurt, so you must choose your words carefully, acting with the best of the other person in mind.
#2 KEEP CURRENT!
- God equipped us to discuss/resolve today's problems today. That's what He means in verses 26 and 27, for us not to let the sun go down while angry. Anger is energy to be used in solving problems, but when used unbiblically, it attacks yourself or others. Let your anger move you to pray first, then resolve the conflict of today. You don't have the grace today to drag up all the past wrongs in your relationship- if you've discussed and forgiven for those things, LEAVE THEM IN THE PAST!
- The dangers of not discussing/resolving today's problems today include opening the door to resentment, bitterness and growing anger, setting the stage for future problems to be distorted.
- Don't tear down. When we use unwholesome words (verse 29), we are attacking the character of the other person, which is NOT what God is calling us to do. In this, we're avoiding the real issue, the real problem at hand.
- Build up. God calls us to use words that build up, encourage, and call up your spouse into the person God has created them to be. When you build up your spouse in the midst of problem solving, you are encouraging him/her to work on the problem using the gifts he/she has through reminding him/her of those strengths.
- Stay focused on the problem- the thinking or behavior that is unbiblical. Seek to understand the motive behind the thought or behavior to address it with God's Word.
- DON'T REACT: Wow, doesn't verse 31 describe how we feel and respond when we feel wronged? Bitterness (refusing to treat your spouse as if he's never hurt you), rage (outburst of anger), anger (slow simmering or indignation), brawling (arguing) and slander (abusive speech), along with every form of malice (a desire to hurt your spouse).
- ACT: Thank God for verse 32, where God tells you how to act instead of react. He calls us to be kind (benevolent, gentle, gracious, loving), compassionate (charitable, tenderhearted, sympathetic, understanding), and forgiving (forbearing, gracious, indulgent, merciful, freeing offender from guilt).
Changing the way we communicate is tough, God knows that and empowers us to do that in Philippians 4:13. Write these principles down so that when you see the next conflict on the horizon, you've got what you need to communicate well, to speak to be understood and to listen to understand. Take five minutes when confronted with a situation to pray, pull out these four principles, and tackle the issue at hand the way God created you to! It's not easy, but it's worth it...
Which of these principles are the toughest for you?
We're so grateful for the NANC training we received- this information is from the awesome session on communication during Fundamentals of Biblical Counseling, Counseling and Discipleship Training. If you are interested in learning practically how to use God's Word to change the lives of others through counseling, we'd encourage you to check it out!
Military? Check out these military marriage communication posts from Excellent Or Praiseworthy: