“You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.” James 1:19
If you’ve traveled to any place where people speak another language, you’ve no doubt experienced communicational frustration. Even getting a simple question answered, such as “Where is the restroom,” you find yourself reduced to hand signals, pre-kindergarten vocabulary, and misunderstandings. What should take a few seconds, takes ten times as long. Each thwarted exchange leaves you feeling more and more disconnected, with even simple ideas getting lost in translation.
The bad news is, you don’t have to travel to a foreign country to experience this. Even where we speak the same language, we still have much miscommunication. The old saying that “England and the United States are two countries divided by a common language” rings true here. We can use a common vocabulary but often we mean differing things by the same words. Communication breakdowns ensue! Deeper than that, when we don’t communicate effectively, we fail to truly connect with others.
The good news is, we can get better at communicating with each other. Our Christian faith emphasizes the importance of connecting with one another and offers tools and practices for doing so. These are skills, dispositions, and best practices that can improve our ability to share messages, to understand others more deeply, and to connect at a heart level. This summer, I’m inviting us to explore the world of interpersonal communication in a series titled “Slow to Speak, Quick to Listen.” The themes we’ll consider include gratitude, listening, encouragement, empathy, and reconciliation.
At its core, human communication is far more than sending and receiving messages. Communication ultimately is about the sharing of life, about cultivating friendship over loneliness, about flourishing in community. Interpersonal communication as followers of Jesus ultimately concerns gratefully nurturing, repairing, and celebrating life-giving relationships. May God bless us as we seek to grow in the practice of Christ-like communication and connecting.