Communication leading to community-choosing our words wisely
Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.
In our last post we shared about how communication is key to any healthy relationship and the improvement we have seen in our marriages over the last several years. We wrote about how control and fear are two of the reasons why we sometimes fail to measure up in this area of our lives. At times, we all have the tendency to try and control others in the way we communicate or we tend to keep our feelings locked up inside out of a sense of fear of judgment, condemnation, or resentment. We ended the blog asking the question: Does your communication lead to community that creates understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing of those you love? In this blog we wanted to explain further what we mean when we talk about communication leading to community.
Several months ago I (Tom) had to have a difficult conversation with one of my friends about the way he communicated his feelings. He is the type of person who shares what is on his heart. He speaks his mind openly and honestly and he doesn’t live in fear of possible outcomes of the words that come out of his mouth. Often times what comes out of his mouth are words of anger, backbiting words which can degrade others.
We met for coffee one Saturday morning to talk. I wanted to tread lightly because I didn’t want to make it seem as if I were better than he was or as if I had all the right answers. I never try to respond in that way. It isn’t the kind of person that I am. But I did feel that it was important to help make him aware of his tendency to share his feelings openly (which isn’t always a bad thing) but that his words could sometimes be hurtful to me and others. I shared about some of the growth I had experienced in my own life in this area and how we all needed to work at guarding our words carefully. I shared about how our words are often representative of what is in our hearts and the way we see others and the world. If we see others as people who have something of worth and value to offer the world then we will tend to speak highly of everyone. If we don’t, we will use words to gain control over someone else, making ourselves seem better and more valuable than others. During our conversation I remember asking him the question(s): Does what you are sharing lead to a greater good? Does it build others up? Does is show your genuine love and concern for others? Do your words lead to greater closeness and intimacy with others?
The fact is that we all struggle to control our words at times. We say things we don’t mean or intend to. We use words to gain an advantage over others. But the important thing to keep in mind is that our words tend to be a representation of what is in our hearts. If our hearts are overflowing with love, grace, compassion, and mutual valuing towards all, then our words will be like a sweat smelling perfume (or cologne 🙂 to the world. If our hearts are filled with anger or resentment or condemnation or judgment towards others our words will tend to degrade others–providing a staunch odor to community and to the world.
Growing up we all heard the adage from our mothers, fathers, grandmothers, and grandfathers–
“If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.”
Unfortunately, those words of wisdom have been almost used and abused over years. But nevertheless, they still ring true now as much now as they did twenty, thirty, forty, or fifty years ago when we first heard them. We should constantly be asking ourselves the question(s): Do my words bring life to others? Do they build others up so that they know that they are people of worth and value? Do they inspire others to become something more than are? Do they create a safe place where people instead of closing up will open out and up?
I should end by saying that I have seen so much growth in my friend the last several months. He isn’t perfect–none of us are–but he does choose his words wisely. He listens far more than he speaks. He is far more humble in terms of how he sees others and it shows in the words he does (or doesn’t) share. He has become increasingly more affirming of everyone he encounters, and as a result, he strengthens the community he lives in.
So let us all choose our words wisely today–let us foster an environment of understanding, intimacy, and mutual valuing of all.