Communication is the lifeblood of a relationship—any relationship! As James so powerfully points out in his New Testament letter, our tongue contains the power of both life and death. We can enhance life through our words; or quite frankly, we can drain the life out of others. In truth, we can unintentionally and needlessly damage relationships and even harm our witness before others if we fail to communicate in a constructive way. Quite a sobering and challenging thought!
Thankfully though, God has given us a handbook in communication and relationships. You got it! It is His Word! Throughout Scripture, He says much about how we are to interact with one another. While I could point to a plethora of verses to help us communicate, let me offer you some insight specifically based on Proverbs 15:1-9. Some years ago, the Lord illuminated my mind and gave me four principles of wise communication from this passage.
First, be a “softie.” Now, I know that doesn’t sound appealing to many of you reading this article. I mean, who wants to be known as a “softie,” especially in our culture? Often, we are taught to give back what has been given to us! However, God says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov. 15:1 NKJV). When you are “soft” in your response, you can often de-escalate the situation. You can carefully place the explosive situation in a calmer context. On the other hand, if you respond with a “harsh” word, you simply ignite the fuse, escalating the moment for both sides. Indeed, such a response stirs up the anger. In my study, I noted the word for stir up was used in the Old Testament to speak of presenting a burnt offering to God. Now stay with me here. There is a time to light a fire . . . in our worship before Him! But instead of lighting a fire of commitment/consecration as his people should, there are those who would light a fire of contention. The Lord encourages us to turn away wrath by being a “softie” in our response to those who are contentious.
Second, think before you speak. Now we all have heard this adage, but the writer of Proverbs recorded it for us this way: “The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, but the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness” (15:2 NKJV). Later in the same chapter, he recognizes, “The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil” (15:28 NKJV). Sometimes, we pour forth foolishness and evil because we didn’t take time to consider how our words would be taken or how those words would affect others. We should always stop and think about how to wisely communicate! And no, it is not our personalities that are to blame for our abruptness; it is our lack of self-control and dependence on the Spirit!
Third, if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all! “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. . . . The lips of the wise disperse knowledge, but the heart of the fool does not do so” (Prov. 15:4, 7 NKJV). Enough said!
Fourth, get real. Be authentic in your relationship with God and others. God doesn’t embrace outward offerings from people who inwardly reject Him. So often the people brought sacrifices before Him in worship, yet their hearts were far from Him (Prov. 15:8). And God didn’t accept such behavior! He is not into pretense. And neither should we! We are to be open and genuine in our relationships with Him and others in our family, our church, and our community. Be real!
These four principles are practical and applicable every day in my relationships with others . . . all drawn straight from God’s Word of wisdom! You gotta love how He takes care of us by instructing us! Let’s put these into practice today! And let’s live to communicate His love/truth/wisdom! See you Sunday!