This is a guest post by Dr. Jim Schettler, Vice President of Student Affairs at West Coast Baptist College. Dr. Schettler is known for his positive, constructive communication skills. In this post, he shares practical principles for communication.
I once heard a story about a king who sent two of his servants out on two separate missions.
The king commissioned the first servant to find the most glorious, beautiful, magnificent thing in the world. He told him to search the Earth over, find this great item, and bring it back to the palace.
The second servant, the king commissioned to find an item of opposite value—the most evil, wicked, sinister item on planet Earth.
The servants departed for their respective assignments and after years of travel returned to the castle.
As you might imagine, there was great anticipation in the palace as the first servant came before the king to present his find. An expectant silence hung across the court as he unveiled the most glorious item on Earth.
A human tongue.
“Your Majesty,” the servant explained, “I searched the world over and encountered many wonderful, beautiful things. But the human tongue can encourage, strengthen, build, and give life and blessing like nothing else.”
The second servant came forward to present his find. He unveiled the most hideous, wicked item on Earth—also a human tongue.
It’s true—the tongue has incredible potential for good or evil. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof” (Proverbs 18:21).
Life-Changing Communication Principles
The premier passage on communication in Scripture is Ephesians 4, particularly the last eight verses of the chapter.
Once you grasp these communication principles, they will help you the rest of your life—in every relationship.
At first glance, they may seem basic. But they are the sort of basic that we tend to overlook. They go against the fiber of our flesh, and they can only be fully acted on through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Principle 1: Be Honest
Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.—Ephesians 4:25
Honesty is the foundation of all communication. If you are not giving true information, ideas, or thoughts, there cannot be proper receiving by the listener.
Be careful in your conversations not to embellish, exaggerate, distort, deceive, or conceal truth.
Principle 2: Keep Current
Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.—Ephesians 4:26–27
Unresolved issues in any relationship will break down communication in a present situation. Why? The past becomes the focus. It’s difficult to relate in the present while clinging to the past.
Anger is the emotional energy of displeasure given to solve a problem. And usually our relational anger is not the righteous anger of God against sin—it is the personal ire against having our rights violated. James 1:20 warns us of the futility of this anger: “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”
When your anger is used for yourself and not surrendered, it will shut down communication between you and others. Labor quickly to get right and stay right with others, or the devil will gain a foothold in your relationships.
Principle 3: Help Others
Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.—Ephesians 4:28
You’ve heard the old adage, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” It’s true.
Charity opens the channels of communication that would otherwise be closed by wary people who have been hurt in the past.
Principle 4: Build Up
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:—Ephesians 4:29–31
What leads to “corrupt communication”? Anything we say in the flesh! What leads to constructive communication? A Spirit-controlled tongue!
What would you leave unsaid (or say better) if you determined to only say that which is true, necessary, and kind?
Principle 5: Forgive Often
And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.—Ephesians 4:32
There’s no way around it. Any relationship that lasts for a significant length of time will encounter the need for forgiveness.
Forgiveness is a choice of the will to reconcile with an offender by erasing the debt he or she owes you and living with the consequences.
Of course, the basis of all Christian forgiveness is Christ’s finished work. God, for Christ’s sake, forgave us, and He’s given us the power to forgive others.
Forgiveness is never easy, but without it, godly relationships are impossible. We are all sinners, and we are all sure to hurt one another. Forgiveness is the grace that provides restoration to both communication and communion.
The Best Communicators
How are you doing in your communication as gauged by these principles from Ephesians 4?
These may appear basic, but the best communicators in the world are those who live out these five simple principles in each of their relationships.