“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1:19-20, ESV
Miscommunication is the source of many conflicts. When our goals, ideas, or methods are misunderstood, misconceptions often lead to conflicts. Sometimes the way we communicate—our tone or choice of words—is the culprit. As the old adage says, “It’s not what you said, it’s the way you said it.”
When our sons whined, we would tell them, “I can’t hear you when you use that voice, please say it again in your regular voice.” Clearly, we did not mean the boys were inaudible, just that their meaning was not being received as intended.
Years ago, I saw this happen within a ministry. One person, a verbal processor, would start talking (or typing) without considering how her words were received by others. Rather than asking for more information or the rationale about a subject, she would state her opposing opinion. She intended for it to be the starting point of a conversation, but it was not received that way. A gentle, older saint felt personally attacked, and we had to have a face-to-face meeting to restore the relationship.
Most of us have probably witnessed similar conflicts between administrators, staff, parents, and students. But the good news is that the Bible offers wise advice about communication. It instructs us to listen for meaning and ask for clarification before we respond or make judgments. For example, if we are verbal processors, we can ask others for permission to “think out loud,” so they know we are just processing the information. And it is wise to proofread and pray over our words before we hit send.
Many times, the anger that comes from ruffled feathers and hurt feelings is a result of our own pride. But if we respond in humility, believing that we may have misunderstood rather than assuming ill intent, we will reflect the righteousness of God.
Heavenly Father, Your wisdom and ways are far above our own. We can be quick to judge harshly and assume the intended offense. You warn us to guard our tongues and be slow to speak. Help us to apply Your wisdom to our communications. Give us discretion and discernment in our words whether spoken or written. Help us to lay aside our prideful reactions and strive toward understanding that we may bring You honor. Amen.
Copyright Diana Anderson.
Diana is a member who teaches history and art to secondary students at a Christian school in Kennewick, WA.