When we were kids, my sister and I were always together. We were the best of friends. We always had each other’s back. That being said, there were also times that we would argue. Although I don’t recall what it was about, I do remember my dad asking us one day if we needed a pair of boxing gloves to take care of our issues. We said no, so he told us to stop acting like that was what we wanted. I always had such a sensitive heart. I just teared up. I couldn’t imagine ever hurting her. It would be incredible if all of our days were filled with Kumbaya moments, but that just isn’t realistic.
Married or single, we all have relationships with people, and guess what: we’re all human, and we live in a broken world. Conflict is guaranteed, but if we do our best to remember whose we are and act like we actually love each other, we can navigate through the conflict with our relationships intact and, often, stronger in the end.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
— Philippians 2:3–4 ESV
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
— Romans 12:18 NIV
My parents have been married for 50 years. I celebrate them often. I thank God that he entrusted me to them, and that I have them in my circle. They don’t just provide godly wisdom. They live in a way I know to follow. One of my dad’s greatest pieces of advice has to do with communication. He said he promised my mom very early on that he would always do the best that he could to make her happy, but that he would disappoint her often if she didn’t communicate with him. At a young age, he shared the same sentiment with me and my sisters. He told us that God didn’t give him the ability to read minds, so if we had something we needed, we also needed to share it with him. So often, our greatest conflicts arise because we have unrealistic expectations.
Communication will make or break any relationship. It isn’t just about us verbalizing expectations. In its basic form, it’s giving and receiving information. It’s opening ourselves up to one another. It’s gaining and revealing insight. It’s also remembering the old saying, “It’s not just what you say, it’s how you to say it.” Failing to communicate, and communicate well, results in frustration and disappointment.
Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit – you choose.
— Proverbs 18:21 MSG
Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear.
— James 1:19 MSG
Listening and tuning in to the other person are as crucial to effective communication as using your words. We have to pay attention, listening and engaging to what is being said and even clarifying, making sure we are really receiving the message. Have you ever poured out your soul to someone while they were looking at their cell phone? That didn’t really go over well, did it? We have to love each other enough to invest our time, attention and hearts.
If all else fails, think and act like Jesus. Whether in conflict or not, if we just take a step back and truly attempt to have the mindset of Christ, we would be so much better to listen, respond and give our best selves to each other.