EULESS, Texas (BP)–The old television programs bring back fond memories. Many seemed harmless enough, although they dealt with serious matters. In the 1950s the “Honeymooners” often made comedy out of conflict in the home.
It seemed harmless then, but today Jerry Springer makes entertainment out of conflict in the home — and people should cry. Conflict in the home is a reality that isn’t really funny or entertaining. It is serious. It can be very painful, hurtful and divisive. And many times the conflict arises simply from what we say to each other and how we say it. To avoid that we must get with it and learn how to successfully control what we say to each other.
James gives us simple and powerful guidance for how to make our communication in the home helpful rather than hurtful (James 1:19).
First, we are to be eager to listen. This is one of the most effective techniques for building a positive environment in the home. Better listeners understand better. When you become a better listener, you not only “hear” what the other person is saying, you can “catch” the feeling behind the words.
How can we be a better listener? First, practice the art of concentration. I know this can be a challenge for me. Often I can become so focused on what I am doing that I listen casually. When I do, I communicate disinterest and can miss the real meaning behind what is said to me. So, listen with the intention to hear, understand and feel with the family member. James said, “Be eager to hear.” Good advice.
Second, we are to be careful what we say. Our tongues are small parts of the body but they are powerful. James compared it to a bit that controls the movements of a horse. He also compared it to a ship’s rudder. It, too, is small but controls the direction of the ship. So, the tongue is small, but it has a lot of power (James 3:5).
What we say has the power to be destructive or constructive. Our words can hurt and destroy. Or they can bless and build.
Adolph Hitler and Winston Churchill were separated by the English Channel. But the difference between them was so much greater than that. Both were powerful and influential speakers. But they did not use their abilities as speakers in the same way. Hitler used the power of his tongue to destroy. Churchill used the power of his tongue to bless.
So it is with each of us in the context of the family. It is our choice as to whether we will use our words to encourage and build others in our families or not. We can make the choice.
But the choice made is not a choice easily fulfilled. Why? Because of the power of the tongue. James warns that the tongue is unruly and not easily controlled. As a matter of fact he says it cannot be controlled by natural means. But the great news is our words can be controlled by the Holy Spirit of God. He guides us in what we say and how we say it as we surrender to Him each day. Then our words are used to build healthy, happy and holy environments in our homes where we can flourish according to God’s precious purpose for all of the family.
God gives us four simple suggestions that can help make what we say a blessing to others in our homes:
— Actively listen to each other with intention to hear what is said and what is meant.
— Avoid as much conflict as possible by being thoughtful and helpful in what is said.
— Give negative emotions to God through earnest prayer and consistent practice.
— Dedicate time to talk with each other about everything.
Claude Thomas, whose column appears each month in Baptist Press, is the former pastor of the Dallas-Fort Worth-area First Baptist Church in Euless.