We are all aware of our need to communicate—it starts early in life. In order for a baby to communicate that he needs something, he will cry. It is amazing how effective a baby can be at communicating without words. After a while, we learn our first word, and then it isn’t long before we are talking a blue-streak.
One would think that by the time we reach our adult years we would be good at communication. However, communication is more than just speaking words. Communication is also listening to what others are saying. Isn’t it amazing that many times our preconceived ideas can play into what we think someone is saying rather than what they are really saying?
I often think about how men and women communicate. Years ago, I heard Dr. Johnny Pope make the statement: “Men communicate in headlines and women in fine print!” Here is how that goes. A man comes home from work, and his wife asks, “How was your day?” He replies, “Fine!” She wants to know what happened at the office or the shop, but he just generalizes and says it was fine. A woman will ask her husband, “How does my hair look?” He will reply, “It is nice!” He thinks he is paying her a compliment, but she replies, “Oh, you don’t like it!” because he didn’t say, “I really love it,” or “It is the best hairdo ever.” In her mind he is just making a statement.
This isn’t the only way we see a breakdown of communication. Sometimes, we totally misunderstand a situation, and based on the way we think things are, or perceive that they are, we respond to them. I recently preached from 2 Kings 5 where we find the story of Naaman, the captain of the host of the king of Syria. The Bible says he was a leper, and the little Hebrew maid spoke about the man of God, the prophet Elisha, that could heal the leprosy.
When the king got word that the prophet in Israel could heal leprosy, he sent a letter to the king of Israel saying that he was sending his captain for the king to heal. The king of Israel thought the king of Syria was picking a fight with him. What the king of Israel didn’t consider was that there was a man of God, a prophet named Elisha, that could help. Elisha sent word that the king should direct the captain to his home.
More misunderstanding happens when the captain shows up. Elisha doesn’t come out himself; there is no fanfare, just a messenger. A servant of Elisha told Naaman to wash in the Jordan River in order to be healed. The Bible tells us that Naaman was in a rage. Why was he so angry? Because he thought that the man of God would come out personally to meet with such an important person as himself. He thought he was worthy of that kind of treatment. After all, he was in charge of the king of Syria’s army. He was also put off by the dirty Jordan River. In his mind, the rivers in Damascus were better than the dirty Jordan River.
God was communicating to the captain, and God used those that accompanied the captain to further His communication. They reasoned with him saying that if Elisha had given him some difficult thing to do, he would have done it—why not try this simple thing? He humbled himself and did what he was told, and God healed him.
It is often our human pride that gets in the way of our communication. Pride breaks down our ability to hear properly. Many times our hearts are hardened by sin and that keeps us from hearing and communicating properly.
Truthfully, the greatest element in communication is not our mouth, our brain, our lips, or our tongue—it is our heart. Jesus spoke about this several times:
“This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.”—Matthew 15:8
“Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.”— Matthew 15:11
“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.”—Luke 6:45
Here are a few ideas to keep our communication from breaking down:
1. Listen more than you speak. Really listen to what is being said. Let a person explain what he is seeing, feeling, and hearing.
2. Ask God for wisdom in response to critical times of communication. As a preacher, it is imperative that I communicate properly, effectively, and powerfully. I can’t do that without the help of the Lord. If you are a teacher, parent, spouse, employee, or employer, you must communicate well. Ask God for His help.
3. When you have made a communication mistake, whether it is what you have said or in misunderstanding what you have heard, take responsibility. Don’t act as if it isn’t important. Make sure that you are able to communicate with those people you deal with on a regular basis.
4. Saturate your heart with the Word of God and fellowship with the Lord. That will do more to keep your heart right and help you with good and sound speech than anything else.