Friday, November 21, 2014

I'm sorry. I'm not listening!

On Fridays I have started a series that is addressing the importance of modeling gospel driven marriages. God is the Architect of the brilliant plan to capture the hearts of the generations through His families (Malachi 4:6).
God has designed the family to be the channel to pass on His plan for redemption to the next generation (Genesis 12:1-3; Psalm 78:3-8). NBFamilies are working to discover providential opportunities where - traditional parents, single parents, grand parents, step parents, foster parents - can experience God’s life changing presence in their homes.

Let this sink in:
  • Our kid’s hearts are being shaped by observing our marriages.
  • Our kid’s faith is being influenced by observing how we treat each other as husband and wife.
  • Our kid’s faith, their ability to trust, their sense of safety and security, is either being bolstered or being destroyed every day, as they watch us.
  • Since marriage is a metaphor for God’s love for His church, (Ephesians 5:25-32) what are our kids learning as they study how we relate to one another?

Our kids observe how we speak to each other. They also evaluate how invested their parents are in one another, based upon how they perceive they communicate. Communication, especially in marriage, is so important that it is frequently addressed in Scripture. Read these passages to be reminded that the Bible extols the value of communication.
  • Proverbs 18:13;
  • Proverbs 29:11;
  • Proverbs 12:18;
  • Ephesians 4:24-27;
  • James 1:19
Communication isn’t easy. When communication is successful it involves self-revelation on the part of one individual and active listening on the part of another. Not only does communication take a lot of time and effort, it is the one factor that can make or break a marriage. Research tells us that most men are less likely to labor at communicating. Also, most wives have more words to express themselves than do their husbands. Further, wives are regularly frustrated when their husbands are reluctant to converse with them. Although the process can be difficult, it is worth the effort.


The bible expresses the highest value of exchanging truth and ideas. Successful communication between couples provides a solid foundation for long-term satisfaction and mutual nurture in marriage. Yet, as simple as it sounds, communicating so often misses its intended mark. When there are cracks in the communication foundation there will always be “settling,” and in most marriage scenarios, complete collapse. Spouses can attempt to communicate and then be completely misunderstood. One spouse expresses a message, they believe that they have communicated successfully, but the hearer will hear something else. In the next 2 weeks, we will uncover 7 reasons why communication can be unsuccessful.
Today will investigate only 3 of the 7. Read each one of these and give yourself a simple score (1 = I struggle with this habit & 5 = This is not a problem for me). If you score each bad communication habit, then you will know what you need to do to improve your communication. I would be a good idea for you to tell your spouse what you are learning about your personal bad communication habits and apologize if necessary. However, BE WARNED. It is dangerous, if you have bad communication habits, to blame your spouse. Accusing your spouse of being guilty and responsibility for unsuccessful communication, even though there will be some truth to the accusation, is a bad idea. You will be met with defensiveness, excuses, and withdrawal or stone-walling. Perhaps you could encourage your spouse to read this for themselves and do their own personal evaluation.
  1. Message Confusion: Message Confusion occurs when there is confusion between the verbal content and the nonverbal cue. There is more than one way to communicate. Spouses successfully use nonverbal means of communicating all the time. Nonverbal communication can convey positive themes like love, affection, admiration, respect, and desire (smile, wink, nod, eyebrows raised, etc.) Nonverbal communication can also convey negative themes like anger, disinterest, frustration, disrespect, and repulsion (sighing, eye rolling, arm crossing, lips pursed, forehead wrinkled, etc.).

    Message Confusion occurs when the two types of communication (verbal & nonverbal) appear to disagree.

    • Verbal Content: Verbal Content is the exact subject matter of the words. Words are to have a precise meaning. When the actual words are expressed, as if they were typed out, the verbal material is the actual content.
    • Non-verbal Cues: Non-verbal Cues express the emotional tone of the statement. Feelings and intent may be implied, hidden, or clearly stated by non-verbal style.
    If a conversation is light or not essential in nature (clich├ęs, value neutral facts, details that are not crucial, flirting, wit, and chit chat), then careful nonverbal cues can provide interest and humor. However, if the nature of the content is important, then it is key that verbal content and nonverbal cues must be of the same in intent.

    If there is a discrepancy between content and non-verbal clues, then non-verbal cues carry more weight when trying to discern meaning.

    It is disingenuous for you to say, “I was only joking, or just kidding,” as if the content was mistakenly misunderstood by the hearer.
  2. Physical Distractions: Physical Distractions are those tangible, material issues that prohibit communication from being successfully transmitted.
    • Health Issues: Some spouses don’t hear well. Perhaps they have hearing loss in one or both ears. Or they may have grown older and their hearing is not as sensitive as it was when they were younger.
    • Speech Problems: Related to hearing loss is speech problems. Some spouses don’t articulate well. There are a variety of speech problems (diction, accents, grammar, physiological pathologies) that prohibit successful communication.
    • Fatigue: Having a successful conversation requires the physical and emotional investment from both spouses. Occasionally, one or both spouses are just too tired to give the kind of effort that is going to make a conversation successful. Busy parents, exhausted at the finish of a long day, are rarely going to have the energy to communicate effectively. When one spouse is drowsy, it doesn’t matter how hard the other spouse tries, the result will be hurt feelings. Sadly, spouses don’t make time for healthy, life giving, foundational, communication. Over time, neglecting this issue because of being too weary will drain a relationship of it’s intimacy.
    • Noise in the Environment: Noise in the environment has become an aggressively significant factor in destroying effective communication. There was a day, not too long ago, when the daily newspaper was the biggest distraction in a marriage environment. Television has always been a distraction to effective communication. But with digital technology not spouses can be distracted by hundreds of channels - CNN, FOX, MSNBC - 24 hour news, ESPN 24 hour sports, movies on demand, Hulu, Netflix, Apple TV. No one would have imagined that people would be carrying around an electronic instrument in their purses and pockets that can:
      • Stream video content (YouTube).
      • Send private text messages.
      • Receive private social media requests (Facebook, ).
      • Search for and troll former romantic interests
      • View pornography.
      • Read news information.
      • Play fantasy sports games with friends.
      • Play hundreds of video games.
      • Write and read email.
      • Look at and send photographs
      • Modify photographs so that they will look their best.
      • Enrol privately in dating websites and flirt with and entertain conversations with other “singles.”
      • Etc. etc. etc,
Just how smart is a “smart phone” if it serves to distract from having an actual conversation with those you love sitting in the same room at the same table? Each couple should have agreed upon safe zones where noise in the environment is avoided (TV off, Smart phones powered down, computers off). How did you score? What are areas you need to improve? Do you need to apologize to your spouse for anything?
Don’t put this conversation off. Make an effort to build on the solid foundation of healthy communication. Jesus doesn't promise you will always have perfect communication in your marriage, but He promises you can have an eternal anchor for your soul: THE GOSPEL (John 16:33). Our kids need to see what it looks like to follow Christ more than they need to hear what we say it is like to follow Christ. Parents are the models of following Christ. This is no easy task. Yet there is no better way to teach them than to show them. Our kids need to see us struggle, mess up, yet reply with gospel centered reaction.
Our responses to one another, especially in the arguments, must be graceful and gospel centered:

  1. Mistakes are made,
  2. Grace is offered,
  3. Forgiveness is experienced,
  4. Repentance causes change and
  5. Mercy is enjoyed!
The gospel response is always the best response and this is how our kid’s faith will be influenced. Is it time to have a conversation with you spouse and begin living a gospel centered marriage? That is my prayer for you. God bless our marriages!
Dr. Phil Sallee, Pastor

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