Many years ago I would grow angry and nag my husband about reading the Bible and praying with me more. My frustrated complaining resulted in an even more stubborn refusal on his part to change. Over time the Holy Spirit prompted me to change instead my approach. So I started to express sadness rather than anger, telling him how I grieved over his neglect of the scriptures and how it impacted his leadership in our home. I told him how sad I felt when he did not pray with me because it indicated that he likely did not pray for me either. I began to shares my grieving heart with him and to my surprise he began to change almost immediately. The Holy Spirit used my expressed sorrow to change my husband’s heart. Never once did that happen with my angry outbursts in the past. How true it is that the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:20)
How do we communicate tough messages effectively, speaking the “truth in love” when what we have to say is painful and difficult? My tendency is either to remain silent, which at times is the right thing to do, or to get angry and complain. I am convinced that sometimes the Holy Spirit keeps my heart stirred up over issues that I really should speak up about. My desire is to be so sensitive to the spirit’s leading that I am able to readily discern when to speak and when to simply shore up my own heart and remain silent.
I would love to hear your ideas and thoughts on this important topic, not only as it applies to you but also as to how we can teach our children this strategic skill. I have been pondering this all week long and here are some of my thoughts:
My experience with Glen taught me that it is more important to communicate out of sorrow rather than anger. Even typing this statement, I realize how strange it sounds, but consider the message Paul sent to the Corinthian in II Corinthians 7: 8-9: “For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it, though I did regret it, for I see that the letter grieved you, though only for awhile. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.” Clearly he and Titus had been discussing some difficult issues that grieved them and clearly Paul felt led to share his feelings and exhortations directly. He addressed the church out of sorrow and not anger. He did not remain silent even though his message brought grief to the recipients and eventually it prompted necessary change and growth.
Here’s some application for us today:
- Don’t ignore the prompting of the Holy Spirit. At times you will be stirred up to address issues with others and especially with your own children and spouse. God may use you to sharpen someone else as “iron sharpens iron and one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17) Be courageous and obedient even if you fear the outcome. The words you share may be the very words necessary at just the right moment for the recipient.
- Be patient! Don’t “jump the gun” or expect immediate changes in your own timing. God does the work in the heart and not you! He merely uses you in the process.
- Pray before you speak to others. Refrain from speaking about difficult issues before your own heart is “prayed up.”
- Never communicate impatiently out of anger, no matter how difficult it is to refrain! Put a muzzle on your mouth until your temper settles down because your anger poured out onto others will not produce anything positive. Nor will your grumbling!
- Never communicate out of a critical spirit which reflects the presence of pride. Deal with your own heart first. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)
- Seek council from a trusted mentor who can help you work through the issues and bring spiritual discernment. Refrain from seeking council from others for the purpose of justifying your own feelings, proving a point, or finding someone merely to agree with you.
Correction is always painful. I never enjoy being corrected but afterwards I have loved and respected the one who has the courage to tell me the truth. Bitter at the start, it’s medicine that makes me better in the end. If I love someone I will tell them the truth, painful as it is, because truth changes lives and in the end serves to strengthen relationships. But it’s risky and frightening so we tend to run from such deep involvement with others. What if we get hurt? What if they don’t receive what we have to say? What if it ends the relationship? We are to be loving men and women, willing to tell the truth and to walk patiently in accountability with one another. Easier said than done! Imagine the growth in our relationships however if we were more willing to both give and receive correction with bold yet humble hearts!
Tips on teaching kids these strategies:
- When kids behave poorly and do wrong things, the tendency is to deal with them in anger and frustration. Try responding to them out of your sorrow over their actions instead. They will be more motivated to change by a sorrowful response rather than an angry one. It definitely works with my grandchildren!
- Tell you kids the truth about their performance and behavior. Don’t sweeten the message. Expect them instead to be strong enough to handle the truth and grow from it. Pain has a way of producing gain!
- As you speak openly with you kids, they in turn can learn how to communicate tough messages to their peers. Like us, they prefer to get angry or ignore the issues but neither deepens friendships. Teach them the truth in Proverbs 27:6 which says “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.”
- Role play with them honest, truthful responses as they work through issues with friends. What are some things they can say? (“It makes me uncomfortable (or sad) when you gossip about others.” – “It’s hard to spend time with you when you whine and complain.”)
I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this matter!