the bible has some great advice for people who want to communicate more effectively. today i took three phrases from the bible - 2 from Ephesians and 1 from James - and used them to guide our reflection on good communication.
James says that we should be “quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger”. But what makes a person quick to listen? I think it’s a spirit of curiosity. Certainty is quick to speak. It is sure of itself and in an argument is slow to consider that there may be more to the conflict or argument than is is able to grasp. But Curiosity sense that there is more to discover. I think it would be a fascinating exercise - to ask ourselves in the middle of an argument “what am I missing here?” I think there’d be more questions and less categorical statements…
In Ephesians we read “putting away falsehood, let us all speak the truth”. In this verse we are not just told not to lie. It’s stronger and broader than that! We are putting falsehood aside! How much falsehood can exist between people without a word being spoken? We don’t have to lie to allow deceit to exist between us. BEING NICE is the curse of many religious people. In the noble insterests of not hurting a person feelings, we may entertain falsehood by not speaking honestly when there is a need to do so. I don’t think we are being given permission to speak honestly without care. But we are being encouraged to live honestly. It’s harder to live honestly than to be nice….
Finally, I reflected on another phrase from Ephesians: “let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up”. The real test of whether we should speak - once we have taken time to listen, and reflected on whether we are living honesty with ourselves and others - is held in this question: will it build the person up? Perhaps the best communication advice the Bible gives us is the challenge to speak constructively. Imagine setting out to speak words that build people up in your daily life. Suddenly every moment, every encounter, every conversation would be touched by your spirituality. “Religion” would get out of a building and seep into our everyday interactions and relationships. People would benefit as their confidence grows. And we would benefit because our communication would be effective and enduring.
three questions for reflection:
- am i quick to speak or quick to listen?
- do i want to be nice and popular or do I want to live honestly?
- are my words constructive? do they build people up?