Friday, December 18, 2009

Communication for Understanding (A Biblical Perspective)

Solomon And The Queen Of Sheba

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The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence. Hatred stirs up conflicts, but love covers all offenses. Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning, but a rod is for the back of the one who lacks sense. The wise store up knowledge, but the mouth of the fool hastens destruction.
Proverbs 10:11-14 (HCSB)

The Bible has much to say about communication.  We are wise when we use communication in a godly manner.  However we become foolish when we do not. 

This verse here identifies four aspects of wise communication.  First it is a fountain of life.  We can speak words of life into the souls of others.  Our words literally have power to build up another person.  The second aspect is love.  More importantly a love that covers up offences.  Third is discernment.  To me this means that we think before we speak.  Thoughtfulness is essential to wise communication.  Fourth, storing up knowledge.  I believe that this means that we are actively listening receiving the knowledge of others.  Listening is vital to good communication. 

This is contrasted by poor (foolish) communication.  First is the foolishness of not being open with something that is upsetting you.  When you conceal violence or thoughts of discontent you are storing it up for some future conversation.  These thoughts will be revealed in due time and not usually in a constructive manner.  The second example of foolish communication is responding in hatred and strife.  Thinking before you talk is contrasted by a person that lacks sense.  If you speak foolishly you will receive punishment according to this verse.  The opposite of good listening is running of the mouth.  Then end of running the mouth is destruction.  It reminds me of a saying I heard once:

Better to remain silent and have people think you are a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

I know it is a cliche, but there is truth in it.

The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever spreads slander is a fool. When there are many words, sin is unavoidable, but the one who controls his lips is wise. The tongue of the righteous is pure silver; the heart of the wicked is of little value. The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense.
Proverbs 10:18-21 (HCSB)

We see a similar theme that reinforces what is in the previous passage here.  Wise communication is controlled, righteous, pure, and feeds others.  Foolish communication conceals hatred, spreads slander, runs off with the mouth, is wicked, and lacks sense. 

A word spoken at the right time is like gold apples on a silver tray. A wise correction to a receptive ear is like a gold ring or an ornament of gold. To those who send him, a trustworthy messenger is like the coolness of snow on a harvest day; he refreshes the life of his masters. The man who boasts about a gift that does not exist is like clouds and wind without rain.
Proverbs 25:11-14 (HCSB)

This passage extends our understanding of wise communication.  Timing is everything.  You can say the right thing at the wrong time and the effect be the same as saying something foolish.  We need to be aware of the timing of our words.  Correction is effective when the other person is receptive.  It fuels conflict when they are not receptive.  Speaking to someone who is not receptive is foolish and a waste of time.  Try to understand why they are not receptive and care about their thoughts and feelings. 

People don't care about how much you know, until they know how much you care.

Wise communication is trustworthy and refreshing.  However foolish communication is like a cloud without rain.  Most of us have grown up with a disdain for rainy days.  However ask anyone that is in agriculture that having a cloud without rain during a dry spell is very disheartening.  In the same way having foolish communication in a marriage that is dry causes despair to set in. 

This passage made me laugh (Solomon had a good sense of humor I think), but it is deadly serious:

A person who is passing by and meddles in a quarrel that's not his is like one who grabs a dog by the ears. Like a madman who throws flaming darts and deadly arrows, so is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, "I was only joking!"
Proverbs 26:17-19 (HCSB)

That second part is more applicable to marriage.  I have noticed that people will act or speak aggressively and then dismiss his/her spouse's hurt feelings by saying, "I was only joking."  This is a form of invalidation.  Invalidation destroys healthy conversation. 

Praising and cursing come out of the same mouth. My brothers, these things should not be this way.
James 3:10 (HCSB)

When we use communication to bring our spouse down we are destroying the effectiveness of wholesome communication.  When "praising and cursing come out of the same mouth" the Bible's edict is quite clear, "These things should not be this way!"

It seems I have some work to do!

I love you Loverly!  I am sorry I do not always do my best to communicate that to you!

God Bless You All

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