The importance of creating relationships rooted in healthy communication and healthy expectation
One of the biggest barriers we have to healthy relationships is our: Communication - Have you ever struggled to communicate something the way you intended to? Maybe you said the right thing the wrong way, or just completely struck out when trying to respond to someone. I have certainly been there myself! But the truth is that God wants us to succeed in our communication and not just survive, but actually thrive. And the good news is, we can get better at it. However, if we are going to learn to develop healthy communication in our relationships, we must first learn to surrender our communication to God. This starts with surrendering the words we speak. We MUST learn to control our tongues!
James 3:8-10: “but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing."
The Apostle James, the brother of Jesus calls us all out in those verses!! Did you catch what he said? James said that with the same tongue we bless God and curse others. In other words, we praise God in one breath and tear someone else down in the next. The words we speak have so much power. More power than we realize. In fact, the writer of Proverbs goes as far as to say it like this: "Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” Proverbs 18:21 ESV
Our future is made of the words we proclaim. So much so, the way we respond or communicate determines the health of the relationships we have. We have the ability to speak life over our relationships or death. However, James tells us that it is impossible for us to tame our tongues. You might be thinking, “so what’s the point of trying to then?” or "is there any hope for communicating well?” James is absolutely correct. Left to our own merits, left to our own strength and willpower, we can never tame our tongues. But there is another way. There is a better way. Through the power of the Spirit of God at work in us, He helps us control it. The good news is that the book of James is super practical, and that’s why he gives us this advice, which will help us all tremendously if we follow it. He simply states,
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…” (James 1:19 NIV)
As we surrender our tongues to Jesus and practically practice being quick to listen and slow to speak, we slow down our words, and put a stop to our premeditated comebacks and arguments. As we aim to listen before speaking, the words we finally say have been given time to be controlled by the Spirit of God. As we yield to God, our communication will get better, and our relationships will benefit tremendously.
The second barrier we have to healthy relationships is our: Expectations - Think of a time when an unfair/unrealistic/hidden expectation of yours caused a problem or confusion for someone else. It’s true! The expectations we have can set ourselves and others up for failure! And we have expectations on virtually everything! Expectations sound a little like this: "I thought they’d ask me out." "I thought she’d cook tonight." "I thought he was going to do the dishes." "I thought he was going to propose." "I thought…" "I thought…"
We could spend a long time talking about expectations, where they stem from, and all of the various ways they are played out. However, it might be helpful for us to ask ourselves some questions to simplify and help our efforts.
1) Are my expectations unrealistic, unfair, or unmeetable? (If you think they are not, do the people in your life think they are?!)
2) Have my expectations been communicated or do I assume the other person(s) should already know them?
Think for a moment, if you had a conversation about your expectations with those who are affected, do you think it would help bring clarity to the situation? Whether it is realistic or not, you have now communicated your thoughts, desires, and hopes for others to understand and process with you. Expectations are not bad, but they can get us in trouble when we neglect to create space for conversations around them.
What would it look like if we created more space for healthy conversations in our relationships rather than premature assumptions and expectations?