Relationships: “We can’t communicate about anything!”

 

We can't communicate about anything!Welcome to Soul Survival where I blog through the Bible and on other subjects related to living the Christian life. My “day job” is biblical counseling. I’m an ACBC certified counselor. I meet with couples, families and individuals to help them find God’s answers for the issues and struggles they face.

Besides meeting with people formally, I am frequently asked questions at church or by email. I’ll be answering some of those questions here on the blog. If you have a question you’d like to see answered (using only a first name or initial) you can submit it here.

 

TODAY’S QUESTION:

From John:

My wife and I have huge communication issues. We don’t seem to be able to communicate about anything! It seems like everything is an issue with her and I don’t usually react the way I should. We fight about the kids, my friends, her family, my family … you name it! I think she’s too critical and she says I’m too selfish. We both know we shouldn’t be talking to each other like that, but we don’t know where to start to fix it.

Donna:

Dear John,

Communication issues can arise in any relationship and learning to resolve them is vital within families and all relationships. But it’s especially important within a marriage, so I’m glad you’re looking for answers. We can either learn to communicate biblically or we will set ourselves up for problems or a regular basis. The good news is the Bible has a lot to teach us about good communication.

I would recommend that you and your wife sit down and pray together. Ask God to show you how to communicate in ways that are pleasing to Him. We certainly want to communicate to understand and to be understood, but, as believers, pleasing God needs to be our top priority (2 Cor. 5.9).

A couple of other passages for the two of you to look at might be: 1 Corinthians 13.4-7 and Philippians 2.3-4.

1 Corinthians 13.4-7 says:

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (NASB).

Jesus said the two greatest commandments are to love God and love others (Matt. 22.36-40). This passage gives us some good guidelines for what biblical love should look like. Notice it’s patient and kind. It’s not prideful. It doesn’t act unbecomingly or seek its own way. It’s not provoked and doesn’t take into account a wrong suffered. In other words, it doesn’t keep score. And that’s just for starters.

Philippians 2.3-4 says:

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others ( NASB).

We are to do nothing, that includes our communication, out of pride or selfishness. In fact, we are to put the other person’s best interests ahead of our own. That’s something we can only do with God’s help!

If we always followed the guidelines in those two passages, our communication would definitely get better, but the Bible has a lot more to say about good communication. One of my favorite chapters on the subject is Ephesians 4, especially verses 25-27, 29-32.

Verse 25 says we are to put away lying and speak the truth.

25 Therefore, putting away lying, Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. 

It goes without saying that honesty is vital to good communication. But honesty can’t be an excuse to use truth like a club, because if we back up to verse 15, Paul reminds us that we are to speak the truth in love.

It’s also more than just “not telling a lie.” Speaking the truth means we can’t withhold information. In order to speak truth, we must speak. It means we shouldn’t make the other person drag information out of us. We need to be open and honest and work at communicating.

26 “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, 27 nor give place to the devil.

There are times in any relationship when we experience the emotion of anger, but we can decide how we’re going to respond. Paul says when you’re angry, don’t sin in your anger.

We can sin in two ways, by exploding or by clamming up and giving one another the silent treatment. Verse 26 warns us, don’t let the sun go down on your anger. While it’s sometimes necessary to step away and pray for God’s grace, we can’t just stuff it or “get over it” without dealing with the issue. If we do, we end up allowing the devil to get a foothold (v. 27), because those things have a tendency to resurface later.

Let’s look at verse 29:

29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Paul warns us to let no corrupt or some translations say, unwholesome, speech come out of our mouths. That covers a lot of ground! Instead, our speech is to be edifying and grace giving. The NASB Bible adds the phrase “according to the need of the moment.”

To be edifying, it needs to build the other person up or be constructive. According to the need of the moment means timing makes a difference. Grace giving means we give the other person what they need, not what we feel “they deserve,” just like the grace God gives us!

31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. 32 And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

Verse 31 says we are to put off words, tone of voice, attitudes, and actions that are full of bitterness, anger, malice and all their ugly cousins. In their place, we are to respond to each other kindly, compassionately, and with a forgiving attitude.

We are to be kind, even when the other person is tempting us to be angry. We are to be compassionate by trying to understand their point of view and responding in a tender-hearted way. And finally, we are to forgive each other as God forgives us.

It’s a tall order, but if we seek His help, are quick to ask for forgiveness when we communicate sinfully, and quicker still to forgive one another, we can grow and learn to communicate God’s way.

I would encourage you and your wife to set aside some time a couple of times each week to discuss decisions that need to be made and things that need to be discussed. Pray before you start. Read the verses of Scripture listed above. Agree to take turns sharing your thoughts and really listen to one another, but make sure what you have to say stays within the biblical guidelines I discussed here.

19 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; 20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God (Jas. 1.19-20).

Blessings to you both as you seek to honor Him in your communication.

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Relationships: “We can’t communicate about anything!”

  1. I love the letter format. Communication is something we really need to work on right from the beginning of marriage, because the issues that need hashing out don’t get any less complicated as the years go by!

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