Here’s a little look inside my church office…specifically, this is the conversation pit. Many in depth talks have been held here.
This is where the church elders study, pray, and meet on church matters.
This is where the deacons often meet to work together for the care of those within our church and the community around us.
At other times, it’s where I sit with perspective married couples, people who are struggling, or people looking for an ounce of guidance.
Finally, this is where I sit and talk at times with people who have concerns, frustrations, or misunderstandings with me or within the church family.
I love this area because in all of these situations, this is often where understanding or healing happens.
In honor of the heart of this little space, I wanted to build on last week’s post concerning gossip. I want to suggest some best practices when it comes to communication during struggles that may be of interest to you.
– Ask yourself, does this warrant a conversation?
To be honest, sometimes our topic of interest can be more hurtful than beneficial. Sometimes, it is our self focus or frustration levels that convinces us that we need to get it off our chest and on to someone else. However, at times, this can just be a transfer of emotional weight with no real effort at a conversation that benefits both of you.
It’s best to pray over and take a moment before you enter into a conversation. It may just be something that you just need to let go of. It might be something that is flared up inside you because of another root cause or maybe your position is wrong. Having some time with the Lord to find if it’s wise to have the conversation is a great first step.
However, for many of us who don’t like conflict, it’s easy to talk ourselves into not talking to someone about an issue and then letting things back up on us. If it’s an issue that needs some conversation or some better understanding on… move to the next step.
– Invite the other person to a conversation. If it’s needed and you don’t, you will lose control of your input.
Let me explain.
For some, we like to go silent when there’s a concern and thus withdraw. In reality, do you know what this leads to? Division.
The people who love you feel shut out and no longer know how to reach out to you. You start to feel more and more on the outside like no one cares. In a church environment, you stop fellowshipping, stop serving as part of the body, and set up a situation for you to feel like you are on the outs.
You may think by pulling your voice back that it’s keeping a division from happening. Not so.
Most of the time, you end up talking with someone about the concern with someone else to get it out there someplace instead of being stuck in you. You may even do so with a pure desire for input and advice. However, now it’s out there and they are bound to tell someone else. They may even have good intentions to get you help you when they don’t know how to but none the less, others now control your input.
It’s better to invite someone to the “conversation pit” than to have them invite you because you were unwilling to make the first move.
– Bring Grace to the Conversation
Often times, when we are frustrated with someone else in a moment, we forget how much we love them. I have seen people accuse some of their closest friend of horrible things they know in their hearts that person would never do. Breathe. Remember who they are. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Ask questions instead of accusing them.
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Ephesians 4: 29
– Expect a Two Sided Conversation
When you bring a concern to someone, they should listen and try to understand your perspective. However, they deserve the same from you.
If your only goal is to make them see and accept your reality, you are not looking for a conversation. A conversation is a meeting of two perspectives that let both sides walk away with a better and bigger understanding.
I have had people come to me with concerns that I listen to and repeat back to them to make sure I understand. Then, when I offer some information that they might now know or a perspective they may not be aware of, get angry at me. They weren’t looking for understanding, they were looking to unload. The key is to listen and speak on both sides to grow together in love and truth.
– Get it all out!
If you have two or three things bothering you, don’t just choose one and ignore the others. Sometimes we pick and choose so we don’t come off like we are complaining too much or are overly needy. The problem is, the opposite usually happens. When we address one thing and leave with a hug, Satan will stir up the other concerns in short measure. The next thing you know, the relationship is strained again and the other person is trying to figure out what happened this time. Get it out on the table and let the conversation and love pour over it.
– Give Mercy to Offenses
Time to forgive. While there are those who abuse your mercy that you need to protect yourself from, most times there is no such thing as too much forgiveness. You will need their mercy … freely give yours.
– Leave supporting each other
The goal is not to leave a conversation agreeing 100% with each other’s perspective. The goal is understanding and supporting one another. It’s unity, growth, and when ever you can…. a hug.
Time after time, I have seen people walk in my door frustrated, depressed, or hurting and after a honest and loving conversation are refreshed and renewed. The common comment is “I feel so much better after we talked about this.” We could all do well practicing healing through communication more.
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…” Ephesians 4:15
Pastor Tom Hypes