Good communication is the foundation of human relationships. When we fall short in communicating with each other misunderstandings happen, emotions (usually the negative ones) are stirred, and ties get strained or broken. In yesterday’s blog posting I urged the principle of listening and letting the other person finish talking. This week let’s think about the next step, thinking before speaking.
One of the most common issues in family counseling is “a communication problem”. What people most often mean is that the other person isn’t talking; and true-enough, that is often a problem. But I have also seen a lot of times in which the communication problem wasn’t that the other person wasn’t talking, but that one party was 1) talking way too much and 2) saying all the wrong things.
You see, not all communication is good communication. Some people think that good communication is all about saying everything that has ever run through their mind—letting it all hang out, so to speak. Not so. In fact, the word of God strongly disagrees:
“Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” Proverbs 29:20
“When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, But he who restrains his lips is wise.” Proverbs 10:19
“So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.” James 3:5, 6
Communication is good; but it is only good, when it has been preceded by some thought. A modern proverb puts it, “Engage brain before putting mouth in gear.” Especially in family settings, where we are our most unguarded and vulnerable, it is important to say things to one another that will actually help, not merely the things that we “want to get off our chest”. This applies whether you are a husband, wife, mom, dad, boy, girl, or teen.
We sometimes think that the unwholesome words that Paul calls sin in Ephesians 4:29 is only about swearing or vulgar language, but it applies just as well to family communications. “Wholesome” refers to what is good for health; and we’d do ourselves and our families a favor by asking ourselves (thinking) whether our family communications are health-giving or just venting.
Proverbs 14:1 tells us, “The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.” While this proverb is addressed to women (who do have greater verbal powers than men), the principle applies across the board to every family member. Thinking before speaking not only helps us avoid tearing down; but it also builds real family closeness.
This sort of communication takes at least four Christian virtues: 1) self-control (not saying everything you’re thinking), 2) love (acting in the best interest of the person and the family), 3) compassion (sensitivity toward the other person’s weaknesses), and 4) courage (to speak the truth in love).
At home, do you think before speaking!