Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another… (Eph 4:25-32).
The whole point of salvation is so that God will be glorified in our communication with him and through our communication with one another. Everything points to one or the other of these two areas of relationship and very often both. And even when they are not both being considered, communication between people is always related to the status of our communication with God. Sin separates us from God (Isa 59:2) and from one another.
In Christ, we belong to one another. In fact, we are the body of Christ, therefore we are more accurately all part of the same body—Jesus’ body. Since we are members of one another, we ought to communicate with one another in a particular way. This way begins with “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Col 3:9-10 ). The flip side is to be honest to one another. Having said this we need to remember that this command comes to us in a context of loving one another. With this in mind being honest does not mean that we should communicate every thought that flits through our mind, no matter what it is. If our comment or conversation would bring unneeded pain or suffering to the one we are talking, we should simply keep it to ourselves. Always remember that love covers a multitude of sins (1 Pet. 4:8).
Also, under the topic of honest communication, if someone says, “how are you today?” and it is clear that they actually want to know how you are doing, if you feel lousy, tell them. Remembering the above, don’t dump on them, but don’t tell them everything is fine, when it isn’t.
Bumps and dings come to us all the time. We get angry with one another because we aren’t getting what we think we deserve, or because we get what we don’t think we deserve (James 4:1-3). We’ve already talked about how to make things right. What I want to do here is to mention that the sooner you can make things right the better. Waiting will only tempt you to further sin: more anger, bitterness, imagined sin. You need to keep short accounts.
Rules of Thumb
Start the relationship in a good place. From there, always give the benefit of the doubt to the other person in the relationship. Trust that they are telling the truth. Give them the benefit of the doubt when what they are saying doesn’t quite make sense. Trust God in trusting them. Let love rule in your life and in your relations with others.
Work on listening first; to hear what they are saying and trying to say. Try to listen first and express yourself later and only if you really need to. When you share your thoughts and feelings do it in a way that anticipates the way the other person hears and understands things. Don’t assume that because you are a certain way, she is too. Study one another so that love will be “other” focused.
Work on imitating Christ in laying down your life for one another in every area of your lives (Jn. 10:15; 15:13; 1 Jn. 3:16).
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col 4:6). “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col 3:16-17).
Love aggressively, proactively. Love first. Love last. Make love your goal. Rejoice all the time (1 Thess 5:16). Think of ways to help others rejoice as well. Work on loving in a way that makes it possible for others to be caught up in your love and carried along by it to the throne of God.
If you become angry, do not sin (Eph. 4:26). Consider how to turn your anger into something redemptive and eternal.
Rather than cursing those who do mean things to you, bless them (Rom. 12:14). Remember that loving your enemies is just as efficacious as loving your friends. However, in the case of enemies it work in another direction. It pours burning coals on their heads (Rom. 12:20).
Talk about everything (plans, dreams, pain, feelings, desires, conflicts, etc. not gossip) with your spouse, but do it in a way that honors the way they want to hear things. Don’t nag, don’t be sarcastic, don’t insult one another, don’t trample on one another’s weaknesses, repent from your strengths, realize that your greatest weaknesses are tied to your greatest strengths. Use your speech to build one another up. Be one another’s greatest cheerleader.
Timing is important: A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver (Pro 25:11). Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing (Pro 27:14). To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is (Pro 15:23)!
Be aware of Communication Killers: Lies (Mt. 5:33-36 Eph. 4:25); Busyness and distractions. Kids, work, hobbies, TV, friends, and even church; Self-centered conversation: not listening, interrupting, monopolizing, hasty speech, unnecessary correction, boasting (Pr. 18:13; 18:2; 10:18; 20:20; 27:2; Jas. 1:19; Ecc. 5:2); angry, cruel, hurtful words. (Mt. 5:21-22; Pr. 10:11; 12:18; 15:1, 28; 16:21,23-24; Jas. 3:5-8; Eph. 4:29, 31); speaking in absolutes: “you always” “you never;” bullying, threatening and manipulating; nagging. (I Pet. 3:1-2 Pr. 25:24); negativity and grumbling; public criticism; harmful body language and other non-verbal communication (Pr. 6:12-15; 10:10; 16:30); refusal to communicate; clamming up; side tracking and avoidance; bitterness and dwelling on the past (I Co. 13:5).
Homework/Practical ways to build up your communication
- Set regular times in which you will give undivided attention to each other.
- Daily debriefing.
- Bi-weekly date.
- Semi-annual get away.
- Worship together.
- Family devotions.
- Pray together as a couple and as a family
- A communication exercise.
- The husband explains the wife’s point of view.
- Without interjecting his own point of view or why hers is wrong.
- The goal is that she will say: “Yes, you really understand me”.
- Then the wife explains the husband’s point of view. (Same rules)
- Then the wife responds to the husband.
- Then the husband responds to the wife.
- The husband explains the wife’s point of view.
- Set goals together. We’ll talk about decision making when we talk about Biblical family structure next month.
- Family goals. Career, location, ministry.
- Personal goals.
- Goals for the children.
- Have fun together.
- Don’t just work at solving problems.
- You also need to relax and enjoy one another.
- The same principles of communication and conflict resolution apply in other relationships: i.e. children.
For further study
Relationships: A Mess Worth Making, Tim Lane and Paul Tripp
A Quest for More, Paul Tripp
Peace Maker, Ken Sande
FAMILY CONFERENCE TABLE
Agree upon an area in which daily conferences may be held without interruption. Choose a table, preferably one that is not used frequently for other purposes. Hold all conferences there. If problems arise elsewhere, whenever possible wait until you reach home to discuss them—at the conference table, of course. For the first three weeks read Ephesians 4:17-32 each night before conferring.
The conference table is a place to confer, not to argue. Begin by talking about yourself—your sins and failures—and settle all such matters first by asking and giving forgiveness (don’t forget to hug). Ask also for help with your log (cf. Matthew 7:4-5).
Speak all the truth in love. Do not allow any sin to be carried over into the next day. Not all problems can be solved at one sitting. You may find it necessary to make up an agenda and schedule out the work over a period of time according to priorities. Direct all your energies toward defeating the problem as it relates to you, not toward the other person. Your goal is to reach biblical solutions, so always have Bibles on the table and use them. It helps to record the results of your work on paper. Open and close conferences with prayer. When you need help, reread Ephesians 4:25-32 (remember the principles).
First, open the conference in prayer. Second, identify any sin on your part (husband leads). Confess it as your sin. Ask for forgiveness. The other should grant forgiveness. Hug.
If any conferee argues, “clams up” or does anything other than calmly chat at the table, the others must rise and stand quietly. This prearranged signal means, “In my opinion we’ve stopped chatting.” Whether he was right or wrong in this judgment does not matter and ought not to be discussed at the moment. The person seated should then indicate his willingness to discuss the topic without sinning, and invite others to be seated again.
In counseling we will discuss ways to overcome the temptations you face. Make a list of these as you confess them to one another. Take care to notice patterns.
Family conference table
- Set up a unique table in a unique place.
- Same time every day.
- Love, fellowship, Christ’s likeness is the goal.
- Communication is the means
- Giving information (feelings, facts, emotions, events, etc.)
- Receiving information
- Starting on the same page (theologically, commitment level and direction, economics, children, etc.)
- Remember not to argue—learn and listen
- No sinning allowed
If sin occurs it must be dealt with quickly and without more sin
- Husband calls family conference,
- Calls it every day
- Wife takes notes/minutes
- Open & close with prayer
- Some kind of bible study should be used. Usually in the context of the day’s particular issue, problem, or project
- Each person talks about the problems from their perspective
- Don’t get defensive
- Remember not to argue—learn and listen
- Remember that you aren’t finished products yet. Change happens slowly sometimes. Let the other person change.
Begin by reading Eph 4:25-32
If you can’t simply discuss the various issues that come up, we will work on them in counseling. Don’t try to “fix” things that can’t be fixed yet. Part of the counseling process is to learn how to discuss things with one another.
This is a program with well-defined goals, methods, and rules. It is intended to give hope to the couple that things can be accomplished.