We all have muscles. Some of us have bigger muscles; and some of us have smaller muscles. I have often been envious of those with giant arms and thick chests. My body just didn’t seem to be able to grow muscles the same way other guys could. That is, until I started going to a gym that had a trainer who knew what to have me work on in order to strengthen those parts of my physique that were limiting me from developing to my full potential.
Though we might not realize it, our communication styles are more akin to muscles than we realize. Though we may be strong in some areas, we likely have weak communication skills in other areas and these weak muscles are keeping us from reaching our full potential as Disciples of Christ, called to take the Gospel to the Nations, or maybe just our next-door neighbor, co-worker, friend, spouse or child. A few weekends ago, Tena Crosby of Fast Track Communication did a marvelous job of reminding us that the gospel requires us to grow in our ability to communicate with others as an act of love for them. If my weaknesses are hindering my brother or sister, then it is better for me to get stronger where I am weak than it is to cause another to stumble (Luke 17:2). The responsibility rests with each of us, not with the other person to change.
My hope over the next few heartbeat articles is to remind us of the strengths and weaknesses of each muscle, to show an example of where Christ exhibited the muscle, and to give a few tips on how we might be able to develop this muscle, if it is not well developed in our life.
The Direct Muscle is the muscle that values truth and simplicity. Directs want to know what you are thinking right now. This muscle speaks things quickly and is able to press into difficult situations without taking it personally. That said, the weakness of the direct muscle is that it can often hurt people unknowingly. They wouldn’t take the words personally, so why do others? Directs often speak and then think, for they process things externally. This can be good when it comes to calling the Elephant in the Room but it can be hard when the words that spew out hurt another’s feelings. But there are times when feelings must take a back seat so that the truth is declared.
I believe that Jesus was the perfect direct communicator. That said he was also the perfect Narrative, Empathetic and Logical communicator as well. His Communication Muscles were aptly developed, balanced and he seemed to know just what needed to be said in any given situation. So where do we see Jesus’ direct muscle being exercised? Consider his interactions with the Pharisees and Sadducees in Matthew 23. In this long discourse, Jesus calls it like it is. He condemns the religious hypocrites no less than 7 times in a matter of a few moments. He calls them “Snakes”, “Vipers” and essentially tells them they are going to hell if they don’t change (v33).
Was Jesus out of line? Was he simply being rude, as many think the exercise of the Direct Muscle is? Many of us would be appalled at such words being directed towards us, but it was the right thing to say at the right time, for Jesus was the perfect, sinless sacrifice. If it were the wrong thing, or the wrong time, then he would have sinned. But he didn’t. Jesus knew that the time at hand wasn’t a time for telling a story, though he told many stories in his life. He knew it wasn’t a time to present a well thought logical progression, to try and convince his hearers of their sin. And he wasn’t trying to figure out how to say it so that these men’s feelings weren’t hurt. No, this was a time for point blank, call it like it is, rapid fire declaration of truth. Hypocrisy is never to be lightly tolerated or washed over. I must be called out.
So how can we develop this muscle if it is weak? Consider this question: Do I love this person enough to tell them that their sin must stop? If your answer is yes, then pray for the courage and the gumption to call it like it is. Maybe you need to write our your thoughts and simply read them to the other so that the words don’t get sugar coated or the meaning missed in some hints. Maybe that seems like too big of a step, but you know that there are people in your life who appreciate short, succinct, direct communication. Instead of asking them if they would like to do something that you want to do, simply declare your desire – the restaurant you want to eat at, the movie you want to see or the chore you want them to do. For the directs in your life, this will be a breath of fresh air, and for the sinners in your life, this may be the shock that God uses to bring them back to the straight and narrow way of Salvation.