Communication—A Key Part of Relationships
February 6, 2024
by Maria Fontaine
Communication—A Key Part of Relationships
We as human beings need interaction with one another and with God. These interactions, or the lack of them, affect our perceptions of ourselves and the world around us, either positively or negatively. Communication is a key part of building a relationship.
All our relationships have an impact on us. Casual or long-term friends, our parents and siblings, our co-workers, and our marriage partners all have an influence on who we become. And the greatest of all relationships, our relationship with God, can help us overcome any negative impacts of circumstances and influences from our past.
Most of us have experienced how strong, positive relationships can help to carry us through difficulties, hardships, loss, or grief. Building a solid, faith-filled relationship with Jesus can turn the challenges that come into our lives into opportunities to gain compassion, wisdom, and strength of spirit.
Our relationship with the Lord grows or stagnates in a way similar to other relationships. If we choose to invest time and effort in looking to Jesus for His guidance, then that active seeking develops and strengthens our connection with Him. If we choose not to invest in communicating with Him, including studying His Word, then familiarity can start to dull our vision.
The saying “Familiarity breeds contempt” isn’t specifically expressed in the Bible, but there are numerous examples throughout the Old and New Testament of how growing familiar with the many blessings and presence of the Lord in our lives can cause us to lose the respect, reverence, and what the Bible calls our “fear of the Lord.” We can lose that awe, that wonder at His mercies, His love and care for us that motivates our hearts to desire to be as close as we can be to Him.
Familiarity with others, especially those who we have deeper relationships with, can be effected in a similar way. We may go through the motions of communicating with someone who we’ve grown familiar with, going through our day being polite, having superficial conversations, or fulfilling common social conventions, yet without genuine interaction of heart with heart. Life can become a routine of expected actions and reactions that fail to stir our hearts, and gradually this neglect can damage or destroy that relationship. It causes our perceptions and expectations of that person to become outdated because we haven’t noticed the growth and changes that are taking place in them. So without realizing it, our assumptions about them become based on the past. That can lead to wrong judgments and can do great harm to our relationship.
A valuable tool when communicating with others is to ask the Holy Spirit to use love and wisdom to filter your words. As that saying goes, “Words are real things; they lift up or tear down, they bless or they curse, they save or they damn.” Wisdom and prayerfulness are part of respecting others and looking to Jesus to know what to share. The Holy Spirit knows what each heart needs even when we don’t.
This is especially true in our interactions with people who are closest to us, because loving someone involves allowing ourselves to be vulnerable. We can’t harden ourselves and be guarded toward those we love, as that will hinder us from recognizing their deeper feelings and needs.
We all pass through times when we need to go that extra mile to help those who we have a relationship with. It’s not about fairness and expecting everything to be “equal.” Jesus never required repayment in kind for all that He gave and sacrificed for us.
The more we draw close to the Lord, the more we can recognize the unconditional and unlimited love that He has for us and others. The more we build our relationship with Him, through making His presence a part of whatever we’re doing, the more our trust and faith in Him and His love will grow.
The love of Jesus doesn’t change. He doesn’t love us more when we do the right things and withdraw His love from us when we don’t. Knowing this brings freedom from the fear of being judged and abandoned by the Lord.
“Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32 KJV). Living this verse can look daunting at times, but stepping out to do what we can goes a long way.
Some people tend to be aggressive in their approach to trying to communicate with others, which can come across as confrontational. Some distance themselves from confrontations by avoiding communicating with those who are more aggressive. They may react defensively or simply go silent and shut out someone they see as attacking them.
Neither approach promotes open communication. The aggressor might walk away feeling as if they have won, but it’s a hollow victory because it hasn’t actually changed anything, and at the end of the day they haven’t been heard.
Some may simply withdraw and silently retain their personal stand while distancing themselves from the other person, which can leave them feeling defeated or depressed and unheard, which can gradually build into resentment.
The priorities of communication should be a willingness to listen, a willingness to consider what the one you are communicating with has to say, the respect and honesty to admit that others may be right at times, and the openness to accept that even when you don’t agree on some things, that your differences of opinion shouldn’t block your love, respect, and care for one another.
Below are some short reminders of things to be aware of in our communications.
• What we say reflects what is in our heart. “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45 ESV). Taking the time to pray and check our heart before we speak can allow the Lord to balance our emotions with His perspective.
• Unkind words or put-downs may deceive you into thinking you’re getting your way, but in the end, they may cost you what is truly valuable: the connection you have with someone you love or care about. Pressuring others to bend to your will can act as a poison to intimacy, trust, and honest communication. Humility, love, wisdom, and honesty are both the healing balm and the antidote.
• In any communication, it’s important to remember that it’s not just about how we interpret the meaning of what we’re saying but how the other person interprets what we say. As we grow in our understanding of those we care about, we can learn to communicate more effectively with them.
I find the following verses especially applicable when it comes to our communications with others and the words we speak. The goal is not to say nothing, but for the love, wisdom, and guidance of the Holy Spirit to infuse all that we say.
Regarding the first verse in the list below, something interesting to remember about the word “bridle” is that when you bridle a horse, you aren’t preventing the horse from all movement; rather, you’re guiding the horse where it is best for it to go.
“If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not bridle his tongue, he deceives his heart and his religion is worthless” (James 1:26 BSB).
“He who guards his mouth protects his life, but the one who opens his lips invites his own ruin” (Proverbs 13:3 CSB).
“Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch at the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3 BSB).
“He who guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from distress” (Proverbs 21:23 BSB).
“Let my mouth be filled with thy praise and with thy honor all the day” (Psalm 71:8 KJV).
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:14 ESV).
“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Ephesians 4:29 KJV).
“Do you not understand that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? But whatever [word] comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this is what defiles and dishonors the man” (Matthew 15:17–18 AMP).
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19–20 NIV).
“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent” (Proverbs 10:19 ESV).
“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs 12:18 ESV).
“Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (Proverbs 16:24 ESV).
As a final thought, consider what the main purpose of salt is in cooking. It brings out the good flavors of the food to improve the enjoyment of it and to increase our desire for the food. The result is that it has been one of the most valued commodities by humankind for millennia. I think that is what Paul was describing when he spoke about our communications in Colossians 4:6, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (ESV).