Although it takes various forms, communication involves exchanging information. Much good is accomplished through effective exchanges. Poor or inappropriate exchanges can do incredible harm. That is why we must continually strive to improve our communication skills. Consider these helpful biblical guidelines for healthy communications.
Be Loving… Ephesians 4:15 indicates that we are to speak the truth in love. True things need not be said in a harsh or unloving way. The truth on any matter is not a club with which we clobber someone on the head. Rather, it should be thought of as ointment which, when gently and lovingly applied, softens the heart.
Be Honest… Ephesians 4:25 states: “…each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully…” Have you ever wondered why this is said? Could it be that many of us, especially when emotions are high and discussions are intense, have a tendency to stretch the truth or exaggerate the facts? The Christians at Colossae were cautioned as follows: “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” (Colossians 3:9-10)
Be Direct… Ephesians 4: 25 also says that each one is to speak truthfully “to his neighbor.” The text doesn’t say “about” his neighbor; it says “to his neighbor.” We must remember this when speaking and when listening! The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Indirect communications are likely to short circuit or breakdown. We should not attempt to talk to one person through another. If you have a question to ask, go to the source. If you have an answer to give, go to the inquirer. (Not the tabloid, of course.) Anything other than being direct in communications opens the door miscommunication and to trouble.
Be Concerned… James 1:19 reads in part, “…Everyone should be quick to listen…” How many arguments have started because people refused to listen? How many disputes would be avoided if people just cared enough about the thoughts of others to hear them through? When we fail to listen, we say by our actions that we don’t care what others think. Proverbs 18:13 declares, “He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame.”
Be Cautious… James 1:19 also says that we are to be slow to speak. Our initial reaction, very often, is not the best response. Rash statements seldom foster effective communications. Solomon says, “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.” (Ecclesiastes 5:2) Again, Solomon’s wisdom is: “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” (Proverbs 10:19)
Be Kind… God held nothing in reserve in expressing His kindness towards us in Christ. Ephesians 2:7 explains that Jesus’ coming shows God’s kindness. Ephesians 4:32 instructs us to “be kind and compassionate to one another.” Speaking kindly to one another is one of the more basic and practical ways that we respond to this mandate. As Ephesians 4:29 explains, “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.” Our words are for building up, not tearing down. Kind things said to one another are building blocks for better lives, better homes, and better churches!
Be Realistic… It is fitting to remember the words of James 3:2 at this point: “We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.” Inevitably, we will fail to communicate properly. We are not perfect. So, it is going to happen. We will sin in something we say. That is when effective communication really benefits those who hear and those who speak. It is amazing just how effective a simple, but sincere, apology can be. If we mess up, we should 'fess up! If we are at fault in something that we say, this doesn’t mean that we should give up communicating. Sin is never a welcome intruder. Thankfully, God is patient and gracious toward the penitent. As with any other sin, forgiveness for those who stumble in something said is as near for God’s child as penitent prayer.
And Remember… Good communication skills must be developed. We must continually strive to become better exchangers of information. It is a life-long challenge. We must never stop trying. Whatever we do, let us seek to develop and maintain good lines of communication in every aspect of our lives. “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11)
© Bill Williams
— — — — — — — — — — — — — — —