Couple devotional: Positive communicationWritten by Laird Crump
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This month’s couple devotional is focused on the responsibilities of marriage and, in particular, the thriving marriage trait of positive communication.
Begin your devotional by praying that God would impact both you and your spouse with His truth.
Read the following thriving marriage statement out loud together.
Positive communication: Thriving couples talk clearly and listen well. They have learned the art of meaningful conversation and can talk about both facts and feelings with ease. They feel an openness to share heart-to-heart with each other and schedule regular talk time to connect.
On a scale of 1-10, (1 = low, 10 = high) how are you doing in regards to positive communication?
As a couple, what could you do to increase effectiveness in this area of your marriage?
Read the following Bible passages.
Positive communication in marriage is fundamental to marital health and vitality. A couple can do well in other areas of their marriage, but if they fail to communicate effectively, then it is doubtful they will experience relational depth. As David and Amy Olsen say in Empowering Couples: Building on Your Strengths, "Developing a relationship without communication is like trying to make orange juice without oranges: it is impossible." There are numerous marriage books on this subject, but it is important for couples to know that good communication is really God’s idea.
The passage you read from James 3 gives three powerful metaphors of the tongue and how we use our words. What God is telling us is that even though our tongue is small, it can have a huge impact. The three illustrations here are powerful: a bit in a horse’s mouth, a rudder of a ship and a spark setting off a forest fire. These little things have a big impact. So it is with the words we speak. The words we speak to each other can either build people up or tear people down. We should never underestimate the power of our words. What we say to others can often make or break a person.
Because of the power of the tongue, God gives us more instruction in Ephesians 4. God says we are to not let any unwholesome words come out of our mouths. That is pretty profound challenge. Think of how our communication would improve if we followed God’s advice. The word "wholesome" means promoting good health and well-being, something that improves the mind. "Unwholesome" means the opposite: harmful, unhealthy, something that is destructive. We need to ask ourselves: "Do the words I use invite my spouse to live or die? Does how I communicate to my spouse increase their health or take away from their health? Do my words improve them or harm them?"
When God says, "Don’t let any unwholesome word come out of your mouth," I think we better pay close attention. This requires that each of us evaluate how we communicate with each other. It is not acceptable to say, "Well, I talk the way I want because that’s just the way I am." God wants our speech to be edifying for our spouse.
The next passage from Philippians encourages us to be positive in our speech. In almost every conversation, there is a positive way to frame our comments or a negative way. The negative way is our natural response, but it often shuts down communication. This means we need to think about what we want to say and then how to communicate it with a positive slant. In Empowering Couples: Building on Your Strengths, Dr. Herbert H. Clark, a psychologist at John Hopkins University, discovered that it takes the average person about 48 per cent longer to understand a sentence using the negative than it does to understand a positive or affirmative sentence. This is confirmation of something every successful person knows: the secret of good communication is positive affirmation.
Saying something positive at the right time is a real art. But Dr. Clark is simply affirming what God says in Philippians 4:8 – "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things."
That means that whenever I am communicating with my spouse, I need to think before I speak. I need to phrase my comments in a positive way and not a negative way.
God is urging us to be intentional in our speech. It is amazing how words stick to us and can hurt deeply and erode some one’s self-esteem. This instruction from God is certainly a tall order. What it means is that we all need to be regularly evaluating our communication with our partner and to become more intentional in using words that build them up rather than tear them down.
Does God want us to engage in excellent communication? You bet! Effective communication is God’s idea and God’s ideal for each of us.
- As you reflect upon these principles from God’s Word, what do you sense the Spirit of God wants you to understand?
- Re-read the passages listed above. Read them slowly to each other out loud. What words stick out to you?
- Discuss a time when you were struggling with your communication. Why was that? What little words do you say that tend to have big impact?
- It’s time to be a little vulnerable with each other. Complete the phrases below and share your thoughts with your spouse:
Negative communication: When you say _______, I feel ______________.
Positive communication: When you say __________, I feel ____________.
Don’t defend yourself, just listen to your spouse and take their words to heart. Try to avoid negative trends and use positive trends instead.
- Find a good book on communication and read it together. Take turns reading it out loud to each other and stop to discuss things along the way.
Take a few moments to listen to God, express your concerns to Him and ask Him to help you reflect His relational ideas in your marriage.
Reference to the individuals and organizations quoted does not constitute a blanket endorsement of either the individuals’ external work or their respective organizations.
Laird Crump was the director of marriage ministry at Focus on the Family Canada.
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