I recently called Jatelo (a solid man who has expressed his intention to court me) to find out how he is coping with this season of Covid-19. He did not answer my call or call me back. In anger, I sent him a text message that I later regretted. Sometime after that, the Holy Spirit whispered to my spirit: “You two need to grow in communication.”
Looking back, I realise that Jatelo failed to act courteously while I failed to express myself respectfully. Because I wish to grow in the area of effective communication, I went in search of knowledge and information that would be useful.
At the core of every healthy relationship is good communication. This allows both partners to express or make known their opinions, feelings and other information either through speech, writing or from what is unspoken. Among other things, one’s background, experiences, stereotyping, knowledge and culture influence the way one communicates.
Right from the creation story, God demonstrates communication. He said: “Let there be light.” Psalm 19 reveals how nature speaks to us of God’s wondrous works while other scriptures tell us of His holiness and our sinfulness. Finally, daily experiences remind us of His new mercies, grace and salvation. How important it is to ask the Lord to teach us how to communicate! God created us in His own image so we need to rely on Him to communicate using His design to build our relationships.
In 1 Peter 3:7, Peter, a married man, urges husbands to dwell with their wives with knowledge. In Greek, the word “know” typically refers to understanding another intellectually and experientially. Considering that people change over time and through experiences, it is necessary for one to be intentional about continually understanding the other in detail. Going on coffee dates, taking walks together or spending weekends away from the hustle and bustle of normal life are some ways in which two people can get to know each other.
God created Jatelo and I uniquely and differently. It would be foolish not to accept each other just as God created us. The more we don’t understand our physical and emotional differences, the more we will be tempted to try and change the other person. For instance, a woman is wired to show emotion, express love and desire to feel loved and needed, whereas a man tends to be goal-oriented as he seeks to accomplish one thing after another.
To navigate the communication gap and curb conflict by managing these differences, the man is urged to live with his wife in consideration of who she is, to treat her with respect, remembering she is the weaker partner but a co-heir with him of the gracious gift of life so that nothing will hinder his prayers. Women are asked to be considerate of the husband and obey him. Conflict arises when there is dishonour and one tries to change the other. Jatelo and I must accept our differences and honour each other as we are so as to enhance communication between us.
As Jatelo and I relate, Ephesians 4:29-30 guides us to speak only what will build, not what will tear down. As I deal with his lack of courtesy, instead of reacting with, “How rude of you not to return my call. You care little about me!”, I would rather say, gently: “I was hurt when you did not return my call. I felt like you did not respect or honour me.”
The first statement is bound to make Jatelo feel attacked and send him into defensive mode. The second one gives him room to evaluate his actions in light of my expressed emotions. My quick and reactive text message that was sent in anger tore down our chance to communicate better. Proverbs 15:4 reflects my prayer that God would enable us to have soothing tongues, which are likened to a tree of life, and have nothing to do with perverse tongues that crush the spirit. Since life and death are in the power of the tongue, I choose to speak life into our communication efforts.
Art of listening
James, the brother of Jesus, wrote: “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). Listening involves giving active thoughtful attention to what the other is saying. Asking questions and repeating what the other person said for clarification and confirmation shows we are listening.
In addition, listening should apply to being attentive to what the other is not saying. When I am silent, Jatelo should be able to discern what non-verbal message I am conveying. The Holy Spirit can minister to us to hear what God wants us to hear and gives us wisdom concerning what to say. Considering two cannot speak at the same time and be heard, we can learn to give the other more time to talk before we respond.
King Solomon reminds us that sin can be found where there is a multitude of words (Proverbs 10:19). I am a sanguine and my personality sometimes gets the better of me, making it hard for me to keep quiet and listen. Other times I get consumed in sudden outbursts of anger. Listening, speaking less and being slow to anger is a huge lesson for me.
Christ is the Vine
If we want to bear fruit in any aspect of our lives, including communication, then walking intimately with God and abiding in His presence is the formula. John 15:5 says: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”
Consistent Bible study, prayer, repentance of sin and being in God’s service will lead us to bear fruit. This fruit enables us to be self-controlled, patient, joyous, peaceful, kind and gentle in our actions and words as we communicate with each other.
As I prepare to share what I have learnt with Jatelo, I know it will be foolish to rely on my own ability or power to have this conversation with him. So I will trust God through the Holy Spirit to talk to him about improving the communication between us. I honestly believe good communication will give us a solid foundation for the way we relate. Communication is key in sustaining courtship, marriage, work relationship, parenting and more, so that it will be as God intended, to bring Him glory.