How many different ways can you think of to communicate with other people? What is your favourite method of communication?
I may be wrong but I think a lot of people choose to communicate through messaging of some description now rather than in person. That may be an email or some form of chat, but why is that? I think it is because it gives us the opportunity to hide behind something, and also the opportunity to not respond. Unfortunately it also means that we can get the wrong message across, because people are unable to see or hear the real meaning behind what we are saying. I know there have been numerous times when I have had to apologise because people have been upset by what I’ve said in a message, when that wasn’t what I meant at all. Charles Dickens was well ahead of his time and said:
“Electric communication will never be a substitute for the face of someone who with their soul encourages another person to be brave and true”
Dickens recognised the importance of face to face communication not only for the person giving the message, but also for the person receiving the message as they can receive encouragement from that face to face contact.
So face to face contact is vital for any relationship, we know that Jesus spent time with his disciples, getting to know them and allowing them to get to know him. But we also have to be careful with how we communicate with each other. In the book of James he gives this advice
“My dear friends, you should be quick to listen and slow to speak or to get angry.”
We live in a society where we are encouraged to have a voice… to say what we want to say… but sometimes that means that we don’t always listen to other people. James isn’t saying that we shouldn’t speak up, or that we don’t have a voice, but that we should listen first. Once we have listened, we should take that in, and then we can respond. So often, when we give it time, when we may have initially been angry, that anger may go away.
As we continue to look at the key characteristics of relationships, communication is key. There are bound to be disagreements in all relationships, but through communication we can work through those disagreements. More importantly through communication we can build each other up, encourage each other, support each other, and not hide behind a screen.
Challenge: How can you build up and encourage people in your relationships this week?
Prayer: Father God, thank you that you demonstrated listening and speaking to others through the person of Jesus. Help us to communicate with others, and encourage them. Amen.