Relationships have man aspects. No matter what type of relationships you have, they can always be developed and grown. But relationships, good relationships don’t just happen, they are intentional. Chances are that if you let a relationship just happen, then it won’t be a healthy relationship. Its easy to think that because someone is nice when we first meet them that they will always be that way. But we need to approach relationships with wisdom.
If we are to develop the very best of relationships, then we must be intentional. If you are married you will have done marriage preparation of some sort. Those of you married more recently will have done a whole lot on being intentional in relationships. This is because a good marriage doesn’t just happen, it actually takes time and effort. But regardless of the type of relationship, whether with a spouse, a friend, or your workmates, being intentional will produce a better relationship dynamic. Good relationships take time and effort, they require us to be very deliberate and very intentional in how we develop and grow them.
Communicate God’s way
The key to any good relationship, and to improving the relationships we have, is in how well we actually communicate with people. We all communicate in some way. My experience is that the more I see it, the more I realise that how and what we communicate is really important. Communication is both technique and content. It is not just what we say, it is how we say it. And more importantly, communication is about how we listen to others.
Quick to listen
Most of us are so keen to get our own thoughts out that we do not actually listen to others, we cut them off, and we are more interested in ourselves than in the other person. The Bible says be quick to listen and slow to speak.
My dear brothers and sister, be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry. Your anger can never make things right in God’s sight.
If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are just fooling yourself and your religion is useless.
How we speak, what comes out of our mouths has a huge effect on relationships. But how we listen is vital. James tells us to be quick to listen. What does this mean?
To attend to what is being said.
To understand and perceive the sense of what is being said.
To find out and learn and to comprehend.
So to be quick to listen, means to actively listen to another person, to find and and learn, to comprehend what they are actually saying. Listening requires us to fully understand the other person and to make sure we perceive the true sense of what they are saying. This requires us to listen carefully, without forming our own ideas to respond, but to understand first, what the other is saying. (Not just their words, but their body language as well).
Slow to speak.
To speak is to articulate, to talk, to use words in order to declare ones mind and disclose ones thoughts. This is where it gets tricky in relationships and in communication. We want to be quick to speak, quick to articulate our own thoughts and ideas so others know what we think. We want to get our ideas across. We want to declare our own mind on something, so that in the process of doing so, we don’t really listen. We don’t allow the other person to finish what they are saying because we want to get our opinion across. The Bible says, we are to do the opposite of what we want. We are to be slow to speak. When we are slow to speak, we are not consumed with ourselves.
In relationships, we are to consider others as well as ourselves. This is what makes a healthy relationship. Whether it be a work relationship or a marriage or amongst friends. This passage of James also says be slow to get angry because our anger actually doesn’t help the situation. The word used here can also mean impulse, agitation and indignation. James says, watch out for these things. Be slow to get angry and agitated and indignant.
The tongue is powerful. James 3:2-12 goes on to say that if we can control our tongue, if we can control what we say, then we will have no trouble being in control of other aspects of our lives. He says that with our tongue we bless God and we curse people. This is a pretty accurate description of how we behave. James says, it should not be this way. Jesus said that from the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. If we want Godly communication, we have to check what is in our heart! What is within will come out, especially if pressure is applied.
What is defiling your language? What is defiling your heart?
Healthy relationships require us to keep a check on ourselves, on what we are allowing within. So what are we to do?
1. Guard your heart.
Above all else guard your heart because it affects everything you do.
Avoid all perverse talk; stay far from corrupt speech.
Look straight ahead and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; then stick to the path and stay safe. Don’t get side tracked; keep your feet from following evil.
Keep a check on what you hear and see. It’s like a gate. We have an ear and an eye gate. Who controls that ear and eye gate? We do!! Keep a check on what goes in and out of the gate. We are responsible for what we see and what we hear. We are responsible for what we do with what we see and hear.
What are you allowing in your ear and eye gate?
What effect is it having on your life, your thoughts, your words, your actions?
Learn to open and shut the gate at the right times. Learn to recognise when something that shouldn’t be allowed in has snuck in the gate and kick it out. I have a fence with a gate to keep my dogs in and the neighbours dog out. We have a choice about who we allow to speak into our lives, who we hang out with and what we see.
What changes do I need to make to ensure the right things enter my ear and eye gates?
And now brothers and sisters, let me say one more thing as I close this letter. Fix your thoughts on what is true and honourable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you have learned from me and heard from me and saw me doing, and the God of peace will be with you.
Paul says, be deliberate in what you think and what you say will reflect it. If you think about what is right and good, this will guard our heart.
What do I think about? What thoughts do I need to take captive?
2. Speak what is right
Proverbs says stay away from perverse speech. If we guard our heart, think about what is right, we will say what is right.
Let your conversation be gracious and effective so that you will have the right answer for everyone.
Notice the word gracious!
How gracious is my conversation?
What can I do to have a more gracious attitude that is reflected in my conversation?
Don’t use foul and abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful. So that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
I think this is an area in relationships that we must be very vigilant about. The Bible is clear, but our culture is accepting of this.It is now acceptable to use all sorts of language, but we are not to be dictated to by culture or what the world decrees as acceptable. ”Everybody does it” is not a valid response or reason. We are to think differently to that. We know Romans 12:2 – don’t be dictated to by the customs of the world, don’t conform to them but be transformed by God, through the power of his word.
What language do I need to be rid of?
3. Treat others how you would like to be treated.
This is loosely called the Golden rule. Speak to others the way you would like to be spoken to, listen to others the way you would like to be listened to.
Do to others what you would like them to do for you. This is a summary of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.
We quote this quite blithely. But think about it. This is very powerful. If in every area of our lives we actually treated other people the same way we would like them to treat us, we would have very little issue with people. Jesus says that this verse sums up all the law and the prophets. Everything written in the old testament is summed up by treat others how we would like to be treated. When it comes to our relationships this is such a key area. How do you want to be treated in your relationships? When it comes to communication, how do you want others to communicate with you? Then treat others the same way.
Sometimes I think we want others to treat us how we would like to be treated, but we feel we can treat others how we feel at the time, by judging them and speaking badly about them. I heard recently that we like to judge others by their actions, but ourselves by our intentions. We expect more from others than we expect from ourselves. The Bible says, that how we judge others, is actually how we will be judged?
In Matt 7:1
Stop judging others, and you will not be judged. For others will treat you as you treat them.
Today as we think about how we communicate with one another, think about how you would like people to talk to and communicate with you? How do you want people to communicate with you? Do you want people to talk to you in the same way you talk to them (or about them, or do you want others to talk to you the way you would like to be talked to?
If we want people to listen to us, then we are to spend time listening to them. If we want people to speak nicely to us, then speak nicely to them.
Be deliberate in putting these things into practise. It will make a world of difference to your relationships.