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Friday, July 15, 2011

Sermon Lessons: Communication

21-22"You're familiar with the command to the ancients, 'Do not murder.' I'm telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother 'idiot!' and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell 'stupid!' at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill."
(Matthew 5:21-22)

3-5A bit in the mouth of a horse controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds. A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it!
(James 3:3-5)

Words matter - what we think should not always be spoken!  There is no greater struggle than to learn to control one's speech.  It is so very easy to just blurt out words that are thoughtlessly spoken - it is quite another thing to "mop up" the aftermath of those very words!  Jesus is focusing on the fact that words "kill" - they have a destructiveness that rises to the level of committing murder!  If he feels this strongly about our speech, isn't it worth evaluating our choice of words?

James gives us just a glimpse of the reality of how powerful our words are - just like a tiny rudder on a ship, they have the power to direct the course of events.  I have heard it said that words don't matter - actions do.  I think in some cases, this is quite true - such as when I am evaluating if someone's commitment is genuine or that there has been a true life transformation.  Actions often speak louder than words in these cases - the individual may still call themselves an alcoholic, but their commitment to stay away from alcohol for the past ten years speaks volumes about their recovery.

There are some basic communication "tips" that we should heed if we want a strong community of relationships:

1.  Don't be afraid to think before you speak!  When we "run" our words through our mind first, we may not always speak everything we are thinking.  Some people may see this as a weakness because you are not as quick to speak as others, but the words that come forth will often be more readily embraced because they have been "processed" before they are spoken.  We are actually practicing the skill of "filtering" our words when we do this - allowing the Word of God we have tucked away to help us bring light to what needs to be said and to hold back on that which really is not necessary to speak at that moment.

2.  Learn to hear the "tone" of your words.  There is often more "spoken" in the tone of our voice than in the actual words spoken.  For example, if your friend asks you to join them at a benefit car wash this weekend, you might respond "Okay, I'll be there," but your tone of voice lacks excitement and is actually conveying, "I will be there, but I'd rather be lounging in the pool!"  You get my drift - words matter, but the tone conveys the heart.  When we realize the tone of voice matters, we can deliver even the hardest message in a loving and compassionate manner - making the message just a little easier to be heard.

3.  Words that are not solicited are meddlesome.  We may think we have something "worth hearing" in the situation, but if the words of advice are not solicited, they are not going to be heard anyway!  It is important to "weigh" the moment, consider the attitude of heart each person is conveying at that moment, and then choose your words according to the moment.  That moment may not be the best - the attitude of heart of the hearer may not be open to receiving the message.  The message is important - but the hearer's open mind and heart as equally as important.

Not rocket science here - just practical advice on communication.  Word do matter - they often control the outcome of community and relationship development more than we know.  Our silence conveys meaning as much as our words!  Our words, aptly spoken, direct the course of our lives and those we associate with!