Rev. David Holwick
First Baptist Church
West Lafayette, Ohio
Communication and the Family
Proverbs 18:21; 21:9; 25:11; Ephesians 4:29
Not long ago there was a television miniseries about Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Since they lived in the White House for twelve years I wouldn't call them a typical American family but they still had some things in common with the rest of us.
The scene I remember has the two of them sitting at the breakfast table. Franklin had a cup of coffee in one hand while the other held the morning paper which he was carefully reading. Eleanor proceeded to chat with him - "Franklin, did you know the Smiths have built a new home in Arlington?" Without moving a twitch he responded - "Uh huh." [No] "Well, isn't that marvelous? Now they'll be so much closer." "Uh huh." [Yes] "Some other news I heard is that Sarah Jones is marrying a British diplomat." "Oh really."
At this point Mrs. Roosevelt was obviously perturbed, because President Roosevelt was obviously oblivious. So she added one more bit of news. "Aunt Gertrude is very upset. She lost her head two days ago and hasn't been able to find it." "Uh huh." [Yes] "Franklin! Put down that newspaper this instant! You haven't listened to a word I've said!" Franklin calmly put down the paper and responded, "On the contrary, Babs. The Smiths have moved to Arlington, Sarah Jones is now the wife of a British diplomat and Aunt Gertrude misplaced her head two days ago. What a pity, but knowing her it's not much of an inconvenience. A refill for my coffee, please."
Wives, does that sound like your husband, except for the final comment?
Husbands, don't you wish you could come back like that?
Right up there with money and in-laws, communication is a major problem in many marriages. Everyone talks but no one listens. Everyone talks but it is at the top of their lungs. Or even worse, no one talks.
Human beings spend billions of dollars every year on satellites, microwave relays, computers and telephones so we can communicate better. It's ironic that the most important communication doesn't require any expensive technology. This is communication within a home and all this requires is consideration and time.
According to the Bible, the family is the most important human institution. If the lines of communication are kept open, each person will be able to grow emotionally in that close atmosphere of love. If they are not kept open, you can be more miserable than you ever thought possible.
The Bible describes at least three ways communication can break down. The first is by nagging. Proverbs 21:9 says:
"Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife."
Go to verse 19:
"Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife."
Proverbs 27:15 is also good:
"A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping on a rainy day."
You may have noticed that the Bible always portrays a nag as being a woman. I won't go into anymore detail on that. But according to a national survey conducted by a well-known magazine, the thing that irritates most men more than anything else is the wife's nagging.
People who nag usually do so because nothing else seems to work. But if you have to repeat everything a half-dozen times, your spouse and kids are either; #1 not paying attention, or #2 don't believe you mean anything the first time you speak.
Another way communication can break down is because of angry quarrels. Every family fights now and then. Some families fight all the time, as if it's the only way they can relate to each other. Proverbs 17:14 says in the NIV:
"Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out."
Some people have the idea that in an argument at least true feelings will come out. You'll know what they really think. Maybe. But usually the heated atmosphere exaggerates our true feelings instead of making them clear. Besides all this, the Bible explicitly tells us to avoid anger.
A third breakdown is the opposite of a loud fight - the silent treatment. Celeste is a sucker for the silent treatment. Deliberately ignore her for fifteen minutes and she goes into hysterics. The silent treatment is a very immature way to get back at someone. If you are to frustrated or angry to speak, tell them so but don't use it as a weapon because Christians must be aboveboard in their dealings with others.
These are ways to destroy communication. The Bible also talks about ways to strengthen it and make it work. Effective communication doesn't just happen - you have to work at it.
One of the most important elements in communicating is to learn to listen. Proverbs 18:13 tells us:
"He who answers before listening -- that is his folly and his shame"
James 1:19 is especially appropriate:
"My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry."
There are two ways to listen. The first is very popular - the words go in one ear and out the other. My mother trained me in this art. I am not al all like Franklin Roosevelt - if I am reading something, I can't recall a word someone says to me. Once I was leaving home on a long trip. My mother was chattering away about my preparations when she noticed I wasn't giving my undivided attention. I decided I would really make an effort to listen. Two hours later I knew the route I was supposed to take, each sight I was supposed to see, the restaurants to stop at and what to order, and the special place to put my dirty socks in my suitcase. Mom didn't want to plan my trip - she wanted to plan my life. And yet she really appreciated it when I made an effort to listen to her.
Genuine listening is not an easy thing to do. It is not passive, either. A listener asks questions so they can clarify what the other person is saying, without throwing their own opinions in. Many people will share deeply held feelings with others who are prepared to listen carefully. This will reveal what the real issues are, instead of what you may think they are.
The reason many parents don't understand their children is because they have never learned to listen to them. It's not enough to demand - "Hey kid - what's your problem?" Young people tend to drop subtle hints about their problems. If you are perceptive then they will open up to you.
Listening has one more advantage - it makes you look good. Proverbs 17:28 says:
"Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue."
Another way to enhance communication is to follow Ephesians 4:29 -
"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."
A successful conversation isn't where you win. It's where you both win. Taking a positive attitude toward the other person and wanting the best for them are duties of every Christian.
Finally, always seek to understand the other person and everything they are saying, even if you are involved in an argument. Proverbs 20:5 says -
"The purposes of a man's heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out."
The goal of communication is to discover what the other person is all about. Author John Powell has identified five levels of communication:
The five levels have a spiritual dimension as well....
Sermon typed by Sharon Lesko of Ledgewood Baptist Church on April 4, 2005.
Copyright © 2017 by Rev. David Holwick
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