By Michelle S. Lazurek, Crosswalk.com
As babies, we learn to communicate as we take in all different types of communication, both written and verbal. Our parents are the biggest example of good communication versus bad communication at that stage. As we get older, we learn to use both spoken words and nonverbal communication (including gestures) to communicate to the world around us. As we get to be adults, however, that becomes more difficult than ever. We must evaluate what's being said, but also the interpretation of what's being said. It's through the interpretation that we often make mistakes, and conflict sometimes results.
Communication allows people to express their thoughts and feelings freely. It is also appropriate communication when the receiver interprets it properly. Communication is more difficult because what we think we hear, we filter through biases that result from unprocessed trauma, wounds, and pain from our past. When we filter our communication through these lenses, it makes it more difficult to understand what the communicator is really trying to say.
As Christians, this can get muddy, especially in the church setting. People hear what they want to hear, and in so doing, can often create unnecessary conflicts. I have been embroiled in several conflicts due to miscommunication or misunderstanding between the giver and the receiver. Sometimes, I was able to resolve it; other times, I was not able to resolve it. After each incident, I learned the importance of asking for help when it comes to communicating feelings clearly and not allowing unprocessed pain to stain my ability to love others the way Christ loves them. I am still a work in progress.
Scripture helps us differentiate between appropriate and inappropriate communication. As a communications major, I studied different types of communication: both the importance of verbal—what is being said—and non-verbal, including gestures, body language, and tone. These elements of communication are critical to evaluate when it comes to determining whether something that was communicated is appropriate. Most importantly, the receiver needs to evaluate their feelings after a communication exchange. If they feel uncomfortable, it’s possible it was inappropriate. Here are some ways through the Bible to be able to differentiate between effective and ineffective communication:
First, Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Communication doesn't begin with what comes out of the mouth but rather what is thought in the head. Gone unchecked, incorrect thoughts can turn into Satan’s lies. These thoughts can affect how we perceive and understand communication. It is important to think about things in our lives that align with scripture. If you're unsure how you should think in regard to Scripture, start with the promises of God. God sees us as his children. He loves us. Because of grace, we are no longer under the law. All our sins we’ve done or ever will do are covered under Christ’s blood and shed on the cross. Therefore, if we ask for forgiveness and repent from our behavior, God will, in turn, forgive our sins and cover those sins under his blood.
2. Romans 12:2
Second, Romans 12:2 tells us to “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will.” This is important because if we're not renewing our minds with the truth of God's word and allowing those lies to go unchecked, they will hamper how we communicate with others. This is where prayer is so important. In situations where accountability is needed, it is important to check what you're about to say with someone else. Allowing someone else to hear our thoughts (whether written or spoken) will help us understand what the receiver is truly hearing. Although there is a level of perception that we cannot change, we can certainly check to see if the words we say will benefit the person or cause further conflict.
Third, Ephesians 4:29 says, “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.” Although there are times when we cause discouragement in others’ hearts, our communication should be encouraging for the process of building people up, rather than tearing them down. If someone hurts us, for example, it is important to take that to the Lord in prayer rather than hurt the person with our words. Taking it to God in prayer and forgiving that person will help us to see that person clearly and therefore not allow communication to build positive relationships to continue.
Fourth, Ephesians 4:15 says, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” This
is where churches miss out on spiritual growth. Many people slip into Sunday service, sing the songs, listen to the sermon, and slip out without ever having any accountability as to how to apply it to their lives. Small groups are an option rather than a requirement, and people are not held accountable for their actions towards others. If we love others, we must speak the truth. However, this does not give us permission to speak however we want or assassinate someone's character. This is not what Jesus meant for us to do. Leaders need to make sure their souls are healthy before they handle any communication issues. We see through our own biases they may do more harm than good by resolving our own pain and wounds to deal with the situation as diplomatically as possible.
Fifth, we should always demonstrate the fruits of the spirit. Proverbs 16:24 says, “Kind words are like honey— sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” We need to exemplify the fruits of the spirit. Ephesians 5: 22-23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things, there is no law.” As we seek to see more of the Holy Spirit in our lives and ask him to fill us every day, we will treat others with the fruits of the spirit, including kindness and gentleness. We will not speak out of our own pain or woundedness but rather speak to people out of the love of Christ. When we love others the way Christ loves us and are driven by the fruits of the spirit, our communication will always be beneficial and appropriate rather than harsh and inappropriate.
It is difficult to differentiate between appropriate and inappropriate communication. However, the Bible gives us a great pathway to understand what it means to speak for the benefit of the receiver. Although there are some areas that we cannot control, we can do our best to make sure we follow the guidelines outlined in Scripture so that every word that comes out of our mouth will reflect the Christlike character God wants for us.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/PrathanChorruangsak
Michelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife, and mother. She is a literary agent for Wordwise Media Services and a certified writing coach. Her new children’s book Who God Wants Me to Be encourages girls to discover God’s plan for their careers. When not working, she enjoys sipping a Starbucks latte, collecting 80s memorabilia, and spending time with her family and her crazy dog. For more info, please visit her website www.michellelazurek.
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