“But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.” Hebrews 13:16
Depending on which translation you use, this Scripture gets pretty broad! Many of the translations leave it simply at “communicate,” while others signify a transference, such as giving. I want to address it for the simpler version–just plain good communication–and attempt to show you why I believe God is pleased when His children don’t neglect to interact properly with others.
One of the greatest weapons the enemy has against the body of Christ is one of our own making, and that is neglect to communicate. We can spew out our colorful cliches and not be short on humor, metaphor, and empty words–just like the world–but we can get pretty tongue-tied when it comes to using our words to show respect and common courtesy. I have been in church for an entire lifetime; and I’ve seen withheld communication destroy, wound, divide, and offend just as thoroughly and just as often as backbiting and gossip!
Why do we have such a hard time with extending this gesture, when we ourselves hate to be on the lack-of-receiving end of communication? I don’t know about you, but I feel my tension levels rise and grind away at my peace whenever I’m waiting on an acknowledgment, and I know someone is choosing just not to respond. Having been there many, many times over the years, it’s help me be more aware of how much more careful I need to be when dealing with others who are waiting on me.
Did you know that you don’t have to have the problem solved in order to communicate? There’s not a thing wrong with, “Just getting back with you to let you know that even though I don’t have such-and-such ready yet, I did receive your request and I’m working on it;” or, “I’m really sorry, but I just can’t be there on Tuesday evening this time. Maybe next time.” We need to be more thoughtful of others in this way! When someone is counting on us to be at our designated post–whether serving as a volunteer coach for the soccer team, a church usher, or even showing up for work–it is a good reflection on our Father when we are tenacious enough to contact our leaders or the person whom we’re serving whenever we cannot do what we have committed to do. I would go so far as to say, when we know ahead of time that we cannot follow through, we should always consider what the other person may have to do in order to fill our vacancy. Sure, I know that ‘s not always possible…but it goes a long way with other people when you don’t leave them hung out to dry! Do your best to accommodate others, and to let them know you respect and value their time, too.
So this sounds almost like an employee manual, I realize–but as ambassadors of Christ, we are called to go above and beyond. If on the job, you are the only believer on a crew of sinners, it’s a terrible thing to have it said of you that the one who calls himself/herself a Christian is the laziest, least reliable, or hardest to work with of the whole team. In the secular workforce, I heard that said of one person or another several times over the years; and while I felt bad for the Christian who was standing out for the wrong reasons, I felt sooooo much worse for Jesus, Whose name was insulted by association with someone who was not diligent…and a neglectful communicator.
You don’t have to have the gift of writing or speaking to be a good communicator, but you do have to have a few other qualities, such as:
- Consideration for others. What difficulties are you causing by failing to touch base, check in, offer your assistance or prayer or just an ear? What open doors do you create by taking time to acknowledge and show respect for someone else?
- Accountability. A follower of Christ should have absolutely no issue with being above-board, honest, a submitter to authority, and thoughtful to others in general (even those to whom we don’t “owe” accountability).
- Humility. Sometimes the other person doesn’t need a lecture; he or she needs for you to listen and show empathy. You’ll never be able to do that if you’re all the time trying to fix the other person! Think…remove the beam in my own eye, then I can help remove the speck in my brother’s!
- Humility again! Don’t use “the silent treatment” as a way to punish your spouse, your child, or any other person. We need to check our spirit when we find pleasure in letting someone sweat. I’m not going to say that there’s never an appropriate time for us to delay a response, but the Holy Spirit knows when we’re using this tactic to get revenge or to manipulate.
- Quickness to repent. If you are wrong, be willing to acknowledge it (by communicating such) and change! Don’t stubbornly pack your withheld apology around. A mature believer will sometimes follow the Holy Spirit’s lead and be the FIRST to extend the olive branch–even when he or she was in the right! Blessed are the peacemakers…and sometimes peacemakers have to be the icebreakers.
- Quickness to forgive. First of all, we need God’s forgiveness and cannot therefore afford to withhold forgiveness from others. Second, unforgiveness can cause us to alienate our people! Think of how many people have just started out a little mad over something, and because they kept nursing hurt feelings, suddenly found themselves five, twenty, fifty years down the road not speaking to a family member. The longer we defer forgiveness, we sear our consciences with a hot iron. The longer we go without communicating, the easier it is to alienate loved ones.
- An ear toward heaven. If you pray for the spirit of discernment, God can absolutely help you foresee potential trainwrecks in relationships. Entire churches have split before over hurts…many times because leaders have failed to seal the cracks when an offense came. Truthfully? It’s easier to look the other way and hope something doesn’t fester; however, the devil usually doesn’t pass on an easy opportunity to de-rail a move of God. Often we don’t know HOW to respond, so we do nothing. Or, we feel the other person is just immature and being unreasonable, so we hope that time will cause the storm to blow over. If you see someone bordering on leaving over an unacknowledged offense, prayerfully ask God how best to handle it. At least be willing to make the communication, even if it doesn’t end as you’d hoped. Once the door closes behind him or her, the chance of getting back your relationship with an offended brother or sister is, as Proverbs said, “harder to win than a fortified city;” AND, the biggest slap in the face of all is if that association is broken in profound silence.
- Openness without nagging. We are sure good at giving TMI (too much information) on Facebook about everything from our skin rashes to our spouse’s bad habits, but not so open in places where it counts. When you are on the receiving end of a hurt, give the other person a chance to make it right by voicing (nicely) what has happened. Carefully choose your words to express your FEELINGS, not your assessment of that person’s character. Those “you always” and “you never” accusations don’t work and can send the other person retreating like a chicken with its tail feathers on fire. Instead of “you never spend time with me anymore,” try “I miss our time together…I enjoy being with you.” A soft answer turns away wrath, but no answer at all doesn’t do much of anything. It’s ok to be transparent with someone else when the goal is restoration, and preventive maintenance!
- Gratitude. If someone–and especially if that someone is in your immediate circle–does something for you, for heaven’s sake, thank him or her! My pastor and his entire family are masters of this trait…and are so thoughtful and appreciative over every little thing. From the time their grown kids were just little, even they were constantly saying ‘thank you’ or ‘I really appreciate that/you.’ Folks are drawn to grateful people. Show that someone’s thoughtfulness impacted you, and that someone go out of his or her way to accommodate you in the future. And when you’re being served in a restaurant, don’t fail to praise those who are taking care of you (instead of complaining about everything)…and put your money where your mouth is, too! For heaven’s sake, Christians, don’t leave a tract in place of a tip. Gratitude is a catalyst to generosity; and if you want that server to view your God as a stingy, unfriendly, unappreciative tyrant in the sky, you’ll be stingy, unfriendly, and unappreciative over your meal. Every encounter with others is a reflection, to the good or to the bad, on our Heavenly Father, Whom we represent. Bring the salt and light through the door with you. I’ve known believers who’ve won servers to the Lord right in the restaurant, just for listening and offering to pray for them. Many times the person taking care of you is a big ball of hurt and desperation. Even now it surprises me how often I encounter someone in this setting who is desperate to just be acknowledged.
- Positive and encouraging. Don’t always offer a story about how your problem (or former crisis) was even worse than the one your contact is going through. If someone’s mother just died, he or she doesn’t need to hear you amble on and on about what all you went through when yours did! No matter what situation you’re helping someone walk out, find a way to end it on a good note (and not by using cliches like the silver lining in the cloud). Sometimes a simple, “We will trust God together to bring you through this” will do. Listen more than you speak. When you are interacting with others, sneak opportunities to compliment and encourage them in appropriate ways. Tell people when they’re doing a good job, and if they’re not, you can still turn the tide by turning up their self-confidence! At any rate, when you part ways with those you’ve come into contact with, let them feel a refreshing just because it was you they served. And remember, we don’t always know what kind of things are going on in a person’s life. That rude customer service person may have gotten news just hours before that his or her child has cancer. There may be a divorce, or terrible money worries, or an abuse going on in the home. Don’t return rudeness for rudeness. It’s hard sometimes, but you can do it!
If you have a choice to under- or over-, always over-communicate. You may get on someone’s nerves by overdoing it, but you’ll not vex him or her nearly as bad as if you fail to communicate at all and cause a meltdown in right order. Think like Christ…the Word tells us that we have the MIND of Christ. Let me encourage you to pray for good communication skills; and if you’re a leader, grab hold of the horns of the altar and tarry till God anoints you with those skills! A great resource is a prayer on Developing Good Communication Skills, written by my dear friend, Germaine Copeland in her series “Prayers that Avail Much.” Here’s a link to prayer at her website.