Pastor Scott Roberts
None of us are perfect communicators. We all struggle with relationships to a certain extent because relationships involve at least 2 sinful people: myself and the other person. This means communication is always flawed – prone to excesses and unhealthy patterns. One of the times this faulty communication exposes itself is over the holidays. So, how can we improve our communication so that each of our relationships has a better chance of being fruitful, beneficial and more in line with God’s desire for mutual accountability and edification?
These four rules come from Randy Patten’s exposition of Ephesians 4:25-32 and his lecture notes from Faith Biblical Counseling. Ephesians 4:25 begins by calling us to put away falsehood and in its place to speak the truth. Honesty will always improve communication, for no relationship can be built on lies and half or partial truths. When our words and actions don’t match, there is dishonesty present. When our words are used to disguise the real meaning that is intended, this too is dishonest. We must remember that we are a people of truth and light, not darkness, lies and deception. But honesty without love doesn’t improve communication. Our honest words must be spoken in love (Eph 4:15). The hard things we must say about how we feel, perceive things and understand the world must never be spoken in anger, in order to harm another, or to lash out, but these truths must come from a heart that earnestly desires to further the relationship – not to irreparably damage it or get even. Such truths do more harm than good. Rule #1: Speak the Truth in Love.
Rule #2: Keep Current. Ephesians 4:26-27 instructs us to solve today’s problems, today. The longer we postpone addressing the issues in relationships that are difficult, the more damage, distortion and pain is caused. The longer it takes us to address a situation, the more opportunity it has to morph in our minds and become something bigger than it originally was. The greater the distance between the situation and the discussion of it, the more opportunity there is for critical details to be lost and for our minds to recast the event into a manner in which we are the victim and they are the abuser. Good communication means addressing today’s issues today, otherwise we are opening the door to distortions, sin and even the devil.
Rule #3: Attack the Problems not the People. Most often communication breaks down because we attack people – either the person in front of us, or people for whom that person cares. In both cases, communication breaks down because our natural human response is to want to defend those we love. Ephesians 4:29 tells us not to have corrupting talk, but rather to have edifying words. When we can focus on the issues, not the people involved, everyone maintains a saner interaction. In order to do this, we must focus on the actions, behaviors and words that are a concern and violation of scriptural teaching. We must seek to understand the other person’s thoughts about those actions, behavior and words and after truly listening, compare their understanding with the Word of God. As long as the discussion revolves around the Living and Active Word of God, the Spirit can and will be present among us to lead each person into truth and/or conviction and repentance.
Rule #4: Act. Don’t react. Ephesians 4:31-32 remind us of common reactions which must be put off in order to put on the character of Christ. In order to act in a godly, healthy way, it is imperative for us to be self-reflective. Which of the 4 rules do we most often violate? What steps can we take to improve our communication?
In addition to the above 4 rules, I would add one more overarching instruction that I have found improves all my communication adventures. The mega rule of all communication rules is this: Pray before, during and after every communication event. Prayer has a way of changing us, preparing the ground for others and ensuring that miscommunications are minimized. When we invite the Holy Spirit into our conversations both privately and even publicly before we start a difficult conversation, amazing things happen. The Spirit is committed to truth, reconciliation, love, forgiveness and the building up of the body. So, ensure that you pray a lot if you want to improve your ability to communicate with those in your life.