Communications are an important aspect of not only our Christian walk, but also in every facet of our lives. Sharing Christ, or sharing of/or about ourselves, can be difficult if we are unable to express or explain our thoughts, feelings, and actions. –And since this series is dealing with relationships, what we are going to discuss today is the importance of communication in any relationship, but specifically marriage.
Nearly two years ago, I was a member of a divorce support group here at Christianblog. Always, at some point in all the various discussions that the group had, I often heard the phrases, “He/she just didn’t understand...” or, “He/she just wouldn’t listen to me”. –What made those phrases stand out in my mind was that they were usually followed by a reason that someone cheated, lied, or got upset and angry. –And also as an explanation why their marriage or relationship ended. It quickly became apparent to me that when their communications broke down... then soon after so did their relationship.
Maybe the problem is that many people want to be understood, but do not understand the importance of also taking the time to really hear and interpret what is being said to them. Good communication is a two-way street... information must flow both ways if we want to be understood and others to understand us. So let’s talk about a few points that are essential for good communications:
Being a Good Listener
We have all heard about the importance of being a good listener, but do we really understand what being a good listener means? Too many people don't really listen to what the other person is saying simply because they are busy thinking about what they are going to say next themselves. So the first lesson to learn is to really focus on what the other person is saying. –Not half listening, thinking about the ball game on television or impatiently waiting for them to stop speaking so we can have our turn talking again. Another tendency is to hear what we want to hear... not actually what the person is saying. –So the second lesson is not to make assumptions. Do not assume you know how someone thinks or feels. –Being wrong is not just being mistaken. It is a flag to the other person that how you think or feel is more important. –Often a fatal mistake in a relationship...
Tone of Voice, Facial Expression, and the affect of Body Language
There are also other levels of communication that are often ignored, not utilized, or improperly utilized. By this, I mean many times we can gain a fuller understanding of what someone is trying to say by listening to the tone of voice they are using, reading their facial expressions, and studying their body language. All of these can be used to help us gain a fuller understanding of what a person is trying to say – or – it can be used as a subtle weapon to control, intimidate, or manipulate. We can agree with what a person is saying/doing verbally, but show through our facial expressions and body language how unhappy we really are with their actions. We might defend such actions by saying, “Well, I said it was all right, didn’t I?” -But what we are really doing is trying to make them feel guilty for doing/saying something we had rather they not be doing. –We are, as a matter of fact, using a form of emotional blackmail. We are using their feelings for us against them in an attempt to control their actions, and to try to manipulate them into agreeing with our point of view. –Sounds horrible, doesn’t it? –But most of us have been guilty of this at one time or the other in one form or the other. What it does is cause resentment... and another potential strike against the relationship.
Gender, family values and the affect of Culture
Communication is rarely as simple as we want to think, and many times those problems arise due to a lack of understanding of such issues as how gender, differences in family values, and the culture we were raised in affect how we look at the world around us and how we make decisions.
(Sigh) It has taken me a long time to figure out that men just do not think like women. –That does not mean that either one is wrong... it just means that we cannot assume that our spouse looks at situations or arrives at decisions exactly as we do. –This is the point where patience is critical!
The other factors that can affect how we think, handle situations, or make decisions are factored in to what type family values and culture we were raised in. The point, my friend and brethren, is that we cannot assume that everyone was raised with the same family values as we were raised with, or that the culture/society’s values we were taught are the same everywhere in the world. Normally, you would think this would never be much of a problem, but between the Internet and air travel becoming common, the world is suddenly becoming a small place...
The Price of Pride
In many cultures and societies, a person’s self-respect and self-esteem is tied to their pride. Pride can be a good thing that drives us to do our best scholastically, athletically, and in our chosen vocations, but it can also be one of the biggest stumbling blocks to a good relationship. It can become a stumbling block if we let pride prevent us from saying, “that’s not what I meant”, “I really don’t understand what you mean by that”, or “I misunderstood”... “I made a mistake”. –Too often such statements are thought of as showing weakness or vulnerability, but what they are actually doing is showing through our actions and words that we care enough about our mate’s thoughts and feelings to seek clarification. This one action opens the door to dealing with all the other issues and problems that a couple may face... especially if they remember to keep Christ entwined within their relationship.
How would Jesus Answer?
I cannot emphasize strongly enough the need to keep Christ centered in your thoughts and actions as you strive to build a lasting relationship. The world has many “answers” that may sound good, but are not spiritually-based. They strive to use worldly logic to answer questions that are old as man is himself. –True answers come from within... through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but even then we must be willing to slow down and listen. –So maybe the most important communication skill you can develop is learning to slow down before you speak. –Slow down when angry words have hurt you... Hateful words have wounded, and thoughtless words have torn our heart strings. Slow down and ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?”... -And then... slow down and remember what He did do when He was lied about, ridiculed, tortured, tormented, and crucified... and let that be the guide to our actions. Amen?