Do you know people or ministries that can claim this? I do. And the odd thing is we either rationalize the lack of communication, blaming it on a systems problem or personality conflict, or we refuse to talk about it, proving the point. So, how can we improve communication?
Realize you’re communicating regardless of what you are doing or not doing. Ignoring someone or sweeping an issue under the rug doesn’t make it go away. Eventually, you’ll trip on the growing mound under the rug. Regardless of your motivation, you’re communicating a lack of investment, which becomes an interesting dynamic, because in many situations, when we choose not to communicate with one person or group of persons, we still continue to communicate with others. It’s often not that we’re avoiding a situation but that we’re avoiding a situation with specific people. The avoidance rarely goes unnoticed. My dear brothers and sisters, always be willing to listen and slow to speak. Do not become angry easily, because anger will not help you live the right kind of life God wants. So put out of your life every evil thing and every kind of wrong. Then in gentleness accept God’s teaching that is planted in your hearts, which can save you. (James 1:19-21)
Respond with obedience to God’s will. We’ve all established habits throughout our lives—some reflect God’s will and some don’t. Just because we’re comfortable doing something, just because it’s worked in the past, just because God has directed us to respond in certain ways doesn’t assume God will guide us in the exact same way and timing. He knows and decides what is best for our growth; we decide whether or not to trust and follow him. Do what God’s teaching says; when you only listen and do nothing, you are fooling yourselves. Those who hear God’s teaching and do nothing are like people who look at themselves in a mirror. They see their faces and then go away and quickly forget what they looked like. But the truly happy people are those who carefully study God’s perfect law that makes people free, and they continue to study it. They do not forget what they heard, but they obey what God’s teaching says. Those who do this will be made happy. People who think they are religious but say things they should not say are just fooling themselves. Their “religion” is worth nothing. (James 1:22-26)
Relinquish control where and when it matters. Before you speak, run it through God’s will. When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can control their whole bodies. Also a ship is very big, and it is pushed by strong winds. But a very small rudder controls that big ship, making it go wherever the pilot wants. It is the same with the tongue. It is a small part of the body, but it brags about great things. A big forest fire can be started with only a little flame. And the tongue is like a fire. It is a whole world of evil among the parts of our bodies. The tongue spreads its evil through the whole body. The tongue is set on fire by hell, and it starts a fire that influences all of life. People can tame every kind of wild animal, bird, reptile, and fish, and they have tamed them, but no one can tame the tongue. It is wild and evil and full of deadly poison. We use our tongues to praise our Lord and Father, but then we curse people, whom God made like himself. Praises and curses come from the same mouth! My brothers and sisters, this should not happen. (James 3:3-10)
Replace ego with empathy. It’s not all about you. Anytime it becomes about you and your need to be the expert and solve the problem in one and only one way or declare information that must be completely accurate because it’s what you know or heard, your pride is taking precedence over humility. Pride will tear apart relationships. Are there those among you who are truly wise and understanding? Then they should show it by living right and doing good things with a gentleness that comes from wisdom. But if you are selfish and have bitter jealousy in your hearts, do not brag. Your bragging is a lie that hides the truth. That kind of “wisdom” does not come from God but from the world. It is not spiritual; it is from the devil. Where jealousy and selfishness are, there will be confusion and every kind of evil. But the wisdom that comes from God is first of all pure, then peaceful, gentle, and easy to please. This wisdom is always ready to help those who are troubled and to do good for others. It is always fair and honest. People who work for peace in a peaceful way plant a good crop of right-living. (James 3:13-18)
A moment of confession: I’ve made every single one of the errors I’ve mentioned. And I don’t fully apply all of God’s guidelines in every situation. And…I am thankful for God’s patience and his constant teaching through challenging situations and relationships.
Embrace what God is teaching you.