Life Essentials—Communication

May 17, 2022

by Maria Fontaine

Besides Jesus, who makes everything better when He is a part of our daily lives, there is a very important element that permeates pretty much everything we do—communication. This essential medium comes in many forms, and sometimes we even use it without being aware of it. Everyone communicates with others in some way, and yet it is one of our greatest challenges to understand what others are communicating to us and how to help others understand what we are trying to convey to them.

We communicate through virtually everything we do. We use “body language,” which includes such things as a wink, a nod, our facial expressions, and the positioning of our bodies. There’s also speech, reading, writing, sign language, and many different kinds of signs that encourage, instruct, or warn people. We communicate through the tone of our voice, our choice of words, or even our lack of speech. We also communicate our intentions through our actions.

While our communications with God don’t usually involve many of the more visible forms of communication, He does speak to us through His Word, coupled with the Holy Spirit, or through His still small voice in our hearts. He also communicates with us through His creation and many other touches of His love through others that can help us to comprehend His love for us. So, God communicates with us as well.

Science has found that we communicate in ways that our conscious mind may not recognize. This type of communication is beginning to be more recognized as real because equipment exists that is so sensitive that it can detect it. Our brains are wired to both project and receive such communications, but our conscious minds may only vaguely sense them or may not pick them up at all, especially when we are preoccupied with other things.

Many people have experienced what some call premonitions or intuition or gut feelings that communicate messages to us or seem to nudge us to do things that we can’t give a logical reason for doing. They just feel right. We also communicate through prayer or hearing the Lord’s voice whispering in our hearts.

We use these many forms of communication in our interactions with others, from the simplest business transactions at a store or an office, to simple greetings to strangers on the street, to acts of politeness that communicate respect and acknowledgment of the value of another human being, to friendships, casual and more long-term; to deep, lifelong relationships with a spouse or other relatives that grow and develop, sometimes over many decades. When we fail to remain engaged and committed to meaningful communication in our relationships with others, those relationships begin to falter, become confusing, grow familiar, or can even fade away.

Words are one of our most common forms of communication, but we cannot always rely on words alone to understand what is being communicated. In today’s world, communication has become increasingly complex, and much of it is much less likely to be done in person.

We use many different mediums for communication, such as email, social media, phone, text, chat, or online meetings where we see people on screens, etc. Often, we can find ourselves attempting to decipher the meaning of the other person’s quick email or text, or wondering if there is a deeper meaning when we can’t see the person’s face or body language or look in their eyes to fully understand their intent. Such communications don’t provide the opportunity to see the other person on a fuller level that includes their interactions with others.

We often have little more than glimpses of the full person, and this can sometimes lead to us reading things into what others say that may be inaccurate or completely wrong. We assume that we understand what someone’s intent or motives are, but sadly, the limited personal interactions can cause us to misunderstand what they are trying to express.

Someone recently told me that they believe one of the most wonderful things about heaven will be to be able to fully understand each other’s thoughts and feelings. The Bible indicates that nothing will be hid in heaven, and we will fully understand others and be fully understood by them.

Understanding and being understood is a powerful manifestation of the Lord’s love for us. In hard times, it can be tremendously comforting to remember that Jesus really does understand us completely. He knows us and loves us as we are. He reaches out to communicate His love for us, and that creates within us a desire to grow and develop. We sometimes get things backwards; we think Jesus is going to love us more because we’re changing or doing all the right things. The truth is that He loves us just as we are. As we grow in our confidence in His tremendous love, it motivates us to do what we can to please Him.

Learning to communicate with one another effectively is crucial to relationships, and it’s not something we learn quickly. It can take a lifetime of practice and trial and error. And we all need to learn to have patience with each other as we grow in our sincere, heartfelt desire to understand and support one another.

Years ago, I had a secretary who had an especially difficult time communicating things in a way that others understood clearly. Later, this person said that what had really clicked for them and helped them to improve in their communication skills was something the Lord had inspired me to tell them. I’d said, “If you want to truly communicate with others, it’s not enough that you use words that express to you what you want to communicate. You have to think in terms of the other person’s perspective. You need to strive to find the words that will enable those you are communicating with to clearly grasp what you want to communicate.”

That may sound pretty obvious, but it can be a genuine challenge to enact because it requires understanding the other person, which takes time, effort, and the humility to ask questions and listen. What a word or concept might mean to one person, based on their personality, past experiences, culture, relationship with Jesus, etc., can be very different from what it means to you.

We all have a variety of relationships with people—relatives, friends, business associates, and so on—where we need to develop our skill in the art of communication. I think marriage provides a very clear example of how important communication is. We can read books and articles on the internet that explain in general terms that your spouse is like this or that because he or she is a male or a female.

Based on that, there is further explanation about how they may generally think and feel, and therefore it’s advisable to treat them in this way or that way. But we know there is no standard or rule that fits every man or woman. There are some tendencies that may be more prominent among men or among women, but we know that every human being needs to be loved and valued, and the innate need for connection with God’s Spirit is present in all people.

We can only get to know others well when we take the time to see beneath the surface. To do that, we have to develop trust and openness between ourselves and them. A big part of that is learning to have mutual respect for one another. To have effective communication, we need to see others without preconceived opinions.

There is no substitute for investing the time to listen to and learn more about anyone with whom you want to build a meaningful connection. Good communication takes time, and in many cases the process is speeded up when you’re going through difficulties and challenges together.

The communication principles that make a good marriage relationship are fundamentally the same as those that build lasting friendships, effective working relationships, and even forge new relationships. Connection with others shapes our lives and theirs. Lack of connection with others, on the other hand, is often a major factor in mental illness, anger issues, violent behavior, depression, substance abuse, and so many ills that seem to be happening in epidemic proportions today.

Communication takes time, and we need to be patient and persevere. Our human nature so often wants everything over and done with, so that we can enjoy the benefits as quickly as possible. Yet, so many times, especially with communication, there aren’t quick fixes. We have to persevere.

I believe Jesus made relationships to be this way to help us avoid familiarity, and to help us see that any relationship requires regular attention. It may at times take a concerted effort to remember the value that open and honest communication can bring to our lives. With the Lord’s help, we can regain the joy and richness that a relationship was built on.

Sometimes I find myself frustrated with some of these long-term growth processes, like communication. I’m tempted to think, “Why couldn’t I just get the hang of it from the beginning? Why can’t I just do the right actions and get the point and move on to other important things?”

However, like so many things in this life, it’s a process that takes time to develop. Learning to provide that for others is part of how we can love them, respect them, and in turn, be much more effective in our work and relationships.

This life is an adventure of learning. We have to mature, and that takes thinking more about others than ourselves, in order to discover the great joy, satisfaction, and contentment that comes from loving others.

The basic mechanics of persuasion may come more naturally to some than to others. The core skills of communicating can be developed through experience or through other methods, such as books, classes, and mentoring, as is true with virtually any skill in this life. But it’s important to remember that even the most skilled person in this or any other area still has to consider what 1 Corinthians 13 so aptly expresses. Without the Lord’s love being the motivation for their use, all those skills fall far short of their most important potential to exemplify the love of God to a world in need of hope, and to provide a reminder of what will continue on long after this temporal world has fallen into dust. Communicating effectively is a very valuable tool to have. Let’s all use it to the full to benefit as many as we can.