How to “Share Hearts” Instead of “Exchange Words”
- Chip Ingram
- 2005 5 May
Communication is the highway upon which love travels. If there are potholes and barriers in our line of communication, our love doesn't reach its target and relationships suffer. There's an old myth that says if two people love each other, the successful marriage will just happen - it will be natural. But that's a lie!
There's nothing natural about good communication, good intimacy, or good relationships. On the contrary, good communication is learned. The great thing is, God's Word shares all the guidelines we need to open our highways of communication and keep them clutter-free.
What is Communication?
Before I introduce five power points for better communication, let me preface this article by quoting Norm Wright, who says, “Communication is the privilege of exchanging vulnerabilities…It's the process of sharing yourself verbally and non-verbally in such a way that the other person can both accept and understand what you're saying.”
Researchers tell us that the words we speak only make up about seven percent of the communication process. Real communication is seven percent words, thirty-eight percent tone of voice, and fifty-five percent non-verbal (facial expression, gesture, posture).
There are at least five major levels of communication. Level one is cliché conversation-“How's it going? Fine. See you later.” Level two is reporting facts-“Are you going to pick up the kids? Yes. I'll be home at five.” Level three is ideas and judgments-“What do you think about that? Let me get your opinion on this.”
Level four is where we go deeper; it's about feelings and emotions, and it's here that true growth begins to happen. Level five goes even beyond sharing emotions to wide open communication, mutual understanding, and total honesty. This is where we unzip our hearts, put them out on the table, and share everything. (Men often have a difficult time with these last two levels, because we're led to believe we shouldn't show our emotions.)
How much time are you spending with your spouse in levels four and five? As a couple, or even among close friends, intimacy does not occur unless levels four and five occur. These levels appear “dangerous” because they open us up to pain, risk, fear, and vulnerability. But they can be deeply fulfilling.
Been Burned Before?
If you've opened up in the past, only to be burned, you're probably tensing up and crossing your arms right now, saying, “I'm not going there...this didn't work for me before.” But let me suggest that the reason it may not have worked is because we haven't done it God's way. Let's open up the Bible to Ephesians 4 and look at five key ways we can open up the communication highway in a way that is safe, effective, and fulfilling.
STEP 1 - BE HONEST
“But speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up into all aspects unto Him, who is the head, even Christ…Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth, each one of you, with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.” (Ephesians 4:15,25)
The principle is-speak the truth in love. It may be easy to tell the truth and it may be easy to be loving, but it's often difficult to do both-to speak the truth in love. Let me give you a skill that will help you do this: make direct requests.
If you're a lady and you want to go for a drive or a bike ride with your husband, don't say, “It's a beautiful day. The sun's out. It's nice walking weather.” You didn't ask for anything (and we men are too dense to get your hint)! Here's how to make a direct request: “Honey, I would like to take a walk with you this afternoon. Would you be willing to do that with me between one and two?”
Before you men start yelling, “Preach it, Chip,” let me say that the same goes for you! If you're in the mood for love, don't tell you wife she smells good or looks nice in that dress. You haven't made a direct request. Instead, you may try something like this: “You look very attractive and I don't know what you have planned for this evening, but I would really enjoy getting together with you tonight…” You get the picture.
STEP 2 - DEAL WITH ANGER
“Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” (Ephesians 4:26)
The principle is, deal with anger appropriately. Be angry, but don't sin. Philip says, “If you are angry, be sure that it's not out of wounded pride or a bad temper. Never go to bed angry. Don't give the devil that sort of a foot hold.” See, most of us have learned not to deal with our anger. We stuff it, we leak it, and it oozes out and sabotages our relationships.
Anger is one of the most destructive emotions in the world, but God has positive uses for it, at times. The command is to be angry, but not let the sun go down on it-don't let it turn to bitterness and sin; deal with it in a way that doesn't harm your mate or your relationship.
At one time in our marriage, Theresa was upset because I was often late for dinner. Under control, she said, “Honey, I feel very hurt and angry when I spend hours preparing a meal to communicate how much I love you, and you repeatedly come home late and miss it, you're communicating to me that you must not love me.” I got the message and changed.
STEP 3 - BE DILIGENT
“Let him who steals steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have something to share with him who has need.” (Ephesians 4:28)
Be willing to work hard on your relationships. That's what Theresa and I have decided. We try to schedule things on our calendar that will enrich our marriage. For instance, we try to block off at least fifteen minutes a day to simply connect, catch up, and talk. We also try to get out on a date once a week. And, I believe it's important for you and your spouse to get away on an overnight trip two or three times a year.
It's tempting to steal from the time that our marriages deserve, even pouring it into our kids, our work, our hobbies, our homes, and such. But God says, “Don't do that.” Work hard on your relationships. Be diligent. Don't take shortcuts, because there's no product without the process.
STEP 4 - KEEP IT POSITIVE
“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29)
The word “unwholesome” is a picture of spoiled meat or fruit. That's what unwholesome talk is-ugly, smelly, good-for-nothing. Don't wound with your words. Speak at the right time, in the right way, and allow God to use your words to help others.
In your relationships, use words that build up, not break down. That means no labeling, no yelling, no screaming, and no unwholesome words; no saying, “You're just like your mother.” “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” (James 1: 19). Please, write that verse down, memorize it, and ask God to help you learn to think before you speak.
STEP 5 - BE QUICK TO FORGIVE “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
What's wrong with being the first to say you're sorry? That's God's way. Be kind to one another, be understanding, be quick to forgive. That's where real maturity and love show themselves. Let's put it this way-do we want God to wait until we get our act together to forgive us? No! In the same way, Christ has forgiven you, so you should be quick to forgive others.
FATHER, HELP US
As you consider what Ephesians has to say about communication, pray that God will give you courage, grace, and an attitude of excitement as you commit as a couple to put into practice the things we've reviewed. Until next time, keep pressin' ahead!
Excerpted from EdgeNotes, the bi-monthly newsletter of Living on the Edge; based on the series To Have and To Hold. Used with permission. Copyright 2005 by Chip Ingram. All rights reserved.
About the author: Chip Ingram is President of Walk Thru the Bible in Atlanta, GA, and Teaching Pastor of Living on the Edge, a national radio ministry.