A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it! It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell. This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can't tame a tongue—it's never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!
-James 3: 5-10 (The Message)
I often like to write about the importance of renewing positive societal civil discourse or to address issues facing our world and the church. This is one of those occasions and is meant to, as with everything I write, attempt to bring about thoughtful, respectful discourse and more importantly a positive thought process.
Communication is something we do everyday and we do it in many different ways. Communication is essential to our humanity. Communication can be used for good or it can be used for bad. It can be misunderstood and ambiguous. It can be delivered loudly or even in silence. It can convey hate or feelings of love. So, if communication is so varied and essential to our lives, why do we have such a difficult time doing it in a way that promotes good and well being?
When was the last time you had communication with your minister, pastor, priest or some other spiritual adviser that you identify or connect with? Do you talk to them as a friend outside of the confines of the church or religious setting? If perhaps you're not close friends but still consider him or her your spiritual adviser or mentor, do you feel at ease to communicate your thoughts and ideas, concerns, questions and positive or negative feedback?
Communication with a pastor (I'll use 'pastor' to cover all the various references) can perhaps be no easier than communication with a co-worker, family member or close friend. As is the case with co-worker, family member or close friend, communication with a pastor...your pastor...can be a very important opportunity for growth and well-being. Alternately, bathroom gossip and parking lot side-bar conversation leads to ambiguity or misinterpretation even if perhaps the conversation may have had potentially positive intentions. We know all this don't we? Why do people risk hurting someone with misinterpreted talk and gossip and do we really listen like we should?
Recently, I asked the following question of several pastors...
What is it that keeps people in a congregation setting from feeling confident enough to speak freely with the pastor? What keeps them from sharing positive or negative feedback or comments directly with them?
The responses talked about how pastors work to give individual church leaders encouragement to promote positive direct communication be it, positive or negative.
One pastor, "had an old mentor that would actually carry around a notepad and pen. When anyone came to him complaining about someone else, he would take pen in hand and notepad out of pocket and say, "Now let me write this down so I can quote you correctly." Most didn't stay around to complete their remarks."
Another pastor called it the 'purple gorilla' that stands directly behind us as we stand in front of a mirror, but we fail to see it because it has no reflection. Most agreed that in the end it's just human nature and that it's not just limited to church, but we tend to pick up on it more in church because our expectations of one another there are higher.
It may be human nature, but isn't it also human nature for us to care for one another? I believe we should be cognizant of it not only in church, but in everything we do and every communication we have? If we're committed Jesus Followers shouldn't we commit to having positive conversation that lifts people up rather than tear people down?
I feel that meaningful communication; thoughtful, respectful, insightful, deliberate dialogue is lacking within the church and in the world. A lot of conversations I've been involved with over the last several months have been about the use of positive words when we're talking and how much of a difference it makes. The use of positive language and the promotion of respectful civil discourse can and will bring about peace and goodwill to the world. As a Jesus Follower I'm committed to that.
So, with whom and how did you communicate today?