Effective communication faces ample challenges

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Faith & Reflection

Communication is essential to all healthy relationships.This holds true for friendships, marriages, parenting and our relationship with God. However, this does not preclude that communication is easy. On the contrary; it can be quite difficult. Francis of Assisi was likely aware of this when he asked God to help him to, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

To begin with, communication is often misunderstood. Someone said that most conversations are simply monologues delivered in the presence of a witness. But communication is much more than just talking. Communication is when a thought or concept is transferred (by means of words, expressions, body language, emotion, tone of voice and active listening) successfully and understandably from one person’s mind to that of another. And that is no small feat!

Cecil B. DeMille (producer of The Ten Commandments) was making one of his great epic movies. He had 11 cameras at various points to cover all the angles. The large cast began rehearsing a complex scene at 6 a.m. They worked furiously until the sun was setting and there was just enough light to get the shot done. DeMille empathically shouted the command, “Action!” One hundred soldiers charged up a hill; 100 more stormed down the same hill into battle. Nearby Roman centurions barked out orders to 200 slaves under their command. The main characters superbly acted out their close up combat scenes.

Fifteen intense minutes later, DeMille yelled, “Cut! That was great!” Everyone agreed that it had gone off without a hitch. The jubilant DeMille waved to the camera crew supervisor wanting to ask how the film crew had made out. From the top of a knoll, the camera crew supervisor raised his megaphone, and called out, “Ready when you are, C.B!”

Effective communication is challenging!

Jesus addressed communication problems. There was no lack of those who would debate with and criticize Him. Jesus described them as, “…though hearing, they do not hear or understand” and “…they don’t hear with their ears…” (Matthew 13:14,15).

I admit that I find my mind racing ahead to my own thoughts, opinions and interests when I am interacting with others. Is there a cure for this? Galatians 5:14 says that, “the entire law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” At risk of oversimplifying (because most problems do not have quick and easy fixes), may I suggest that this is the answer?

To love another is to put them first and will promote putting the interest of others in a place of importance. This in turn should result in both active listening and compassionate responses.

Give it a try. Communication works when we work at it.

Pastor Ross Helgeton is senior pastor at Erskine Evangelical Free Church.