Communicating Within the Family and in the Congregation
“Let your utterance be always with graciousness, seasoned with salt.”—COLOSSIANS 4:6.
1. What did Adam say when God introduced Eve to him?
“NO MAN is an island . . . Every man is a piece of the continent.” So wrote an observant man of letters several centuries ago. In saying that, he was only corroborating what the Creator said about Adam: “It is not good for the man to continue by himself.” Adam had the gift of speech and language, for he had named all the animals. But Adam had no other human creature with whom he could communicate. No wonder that when God introduced lovely Eve to him as his wife, he exclaimed: “This is at last bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh”! Thus, as the first human family got its start, Adam began to communicate with a fellow human.—Genesis 2:18, 23.
2. What harm can result from uncontrolled television viewing?
2 The family circle is an ideal place for communication. Indeed, the very success of family life depends on it. However, to communicate takes time and effort. Today, one of the biggest thieves of time is television. It can be an instrument for harm in at least two ways. On the one hand, it can be so enticing that family members become addicted to it, resulting in a dearth of communication. On the other hand, television can serve as a way of escape when there are misunderstandings or hurt feelings. Instead of working out problems, some marriage partners have chosen to clam up and watch television. So the TV set can well contribute to a failure to communicate, which is said to be the primary marriage wrecker. Those having difficulty in keeping television watching in a subordinate place may well consider dispensing with it altogether.—Matthew 5:29; 18:9.
3. How have some benefited by limiting TV viewing?
3 In fact, glowing reports have come to hand telling of the blessings resulting when use of TV was reduced or even dispensed with. One family wrote: “We talk to one another more . . . , do more Bible research . . . We play games together . . . All aspects of our field service have increased.” Another family said after they got rid of their TV: “Not only are we saving money [they had subscribed to cable TV] but we have become closer as a family and have found many other worthwhile things to do with our time. We are never bored.”
Looking, Talking, and Listening
4. How may a married couple communicate appreciation for each other?
4 There are different forms of communication within the family. Some are nonverbal. When two people just look at each other, it is a form of communication. Being together can communicate a sense of caring. Mates should avoid being away from each other for extended periods of time unless there is an unavoidable reason. A married couple can foster happiness in each other by enjoyment of the close association they have within the marriage bond. By the affectionate and yet respectful way they behave toward each other, whether in public or in private, showing proper dignity in dress and manners, they can silently communicate deep appreciation of each other. Wise King Solomon expressed it in these words: “Let your water source prove to be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth.”—Proverbs 5:18.
5, 6. Why should husbands be aware of the importance of communicating with their wives?
5 Communication also calls for conversation, dialogue—talking with each other, not at each other. While some women are better than men at expressing their feelings, that is no excuse for husbands to be silent partners. Christian husbands should be aware that lack of communication is a major problem in many marriages, and so they should work hard at keeping open the lines of communication. Indeed, they will do this if they, together with their wives, heed the fine counsel the apostle Paul gives at Ephesians 5:25-33. For a husband to love his wife as his own body, he must be concerned with her well-being and happiness, not just his own. To that end, communication is indispensable.
6 A husband should not take the attitude that his wife should surmise or guess that he appreciates her. She needs to be assured of his love for her. He can show his appreciation in many ways—by expressions of endearment and unexpected gifts, as well as by keeping her fully informed as to matters that might affect her. There is also the challenge of expressing appreciation for his wife’s efforts, be it in her personal adornment, in her hard work in behalf of the family, or in her wholehearted support of spiritual activities. In addition, for a husband to heed the counsel of the apostle Peter at 1 Peter 3:7, to ‘dwell with his wife according to knowledge,’ he must have empathy, which is shown by communicating with her in all matters of mutual concern, bestowing honor upon her as the weaker vessel.—Proverbs 31:28, 29.
7. What obligation does a wife have to communicate with her husband?
7 Likewise, for a wife to heed the counsel regarding subjection at Ephesians 5:22-24, she needs to be concerned with keeping open the lines of communication with her husband. She needs to accord her husband “deep respect,” both by her speech and by her conduct. Never should she act independently or ignore his wishes. (Ephesians 5:33) At all times, there should be confidential talk between her and her husband.—Compare Proverbs 15:22.
8. To keep lines of communication open, what must wives be willing to do?
8 Further, a wife should guard against suffering in silence as a display of self-pity. If there is a misunderstanding, let her seek the right time to bring up the matter. Yes, take a lesson from Queen Esther. She had a life-and-death matter to bring to her husband’s attention. Her acting promptly with wisdom and tact meant salvation for the Jews. We owe it both to our mates and to ourselves to communicate if we have been or are being hurt. Tact and a godly sense of humor can help make communication easier.—Esther 4:15–5:8.
9. What role does listening play in communication?
9 Implicit in using speech to keep open the lines of communication is the obligation of each to listen to what the other has to say—and to make the effort to notice what has been left unsaid. That requires paying attention to the one speaking. Not only does one need to perceive the thought content but one also needs to pay attention to the emotional content, the way something is said. Often a husband comes short along this line. Wives may suffer because husbands fail to listen. And wives on their part need to listen carefully so that they avoid jumping to conclusions. “A wise person will listen and take in more instruction.”—Proverbs 1:5.
Communication Between Parents and Children
10. To do justice in communicating with their children, what must parents be willing to do?
10 There is also the situation where parents and their offspring have difficulty in communicating. To “train up a boy according to the way for him” requires the establishing of lines of communication. Doing so will help ensure that “even when he grows old he will not turn aside from it.” (Proverbs 22:6) That some parents lose their children to the world is sometimes related to a communication gap that developed during adolescence. The parents’ obligation to communicate continually with their children is highlighted at Deuteronomy 6:6, 7: “These words that I am commanding you today must prove to be on your heart; and you must inculcate them in your son and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up.” Yes, parents must spend time with their children! They must be willing to make sacrifices in behalf of their children.
11. What are some things parents should communicate to their children?
11 Parents, communicate to your children that Jehovah loves them and that you too love them. (Proverbs 4:1-4) Let them see your willingness to sacrifice comforts and pleasures for the sake of their mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual growth. Important in this regard is empathy, that is, the parents’ ability to view things through the eyes of their children. By displaying unselfish love, you parents can build a strong bond of union with your children and encourage them to confide in you rather than make confidants of their peers.—Colossians 3:14.
12. Why should youths freely communicate with their parents?
12 On the other hand, youths, you have the obligation to communicate with your parents. Appreciating what they have done for you will help you to take them into your confidence. You need their help and support, and it will be easier for them to give it if you freely communicate with them. Why make peers your main source of advice? These have likely done little for you in comparison with your parents. They have no more experience in life than you have, and if they are not part of the congregation, they are not really interested in your lasting welfare.
Communication Within the Congregation
13, 14. What Bible principles entail communication between Christians?
13 Another challenge is keeping the lines of communication open with your brothers in the congregation. We are strongly admonished not to forsake ‘the gathering of ourselves together.’ For what purpose do we gather? “To incite to love and fine works.” This calls for communication. (Hebrews 10:24, 25) If someone offends you, that is absolutely no reason for staying away from meetings. Keep the lines of communication open by following in principle the counsel Jesus gave us as recorded at Matthew 18:15-17. Talk with the one that you feel is causing your unhappiness.
14 When having difficulties with one of your brothers, heed such Scriptural counsel as that found at Colossians 3:13: “Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Even as Jehovah freely forgave you, so do you also.” That implies communication rather than a refusal to speak to someone. And should you notice that someone seems to be cool toward you, heed the counsel found at Matthew 5:23, 24. Communicate, and try to make peace with your brother. This calls for love and humility on your part, but you owe it to yourself and to your brother to heed Jesus’ counsel.
Counsel and Encouragement
15. Why should Christians not fail to communicate counsel when in a position to do so?
15 The obligation to communicate is also involved in heeding Paul’s counsel at Galatians 6:1: “Brothers, even though a man takes some false step before he is aware of it, you who have spiritual qualifications try to readjust such a man in a spirit of mildness, as you each keep an eye on yourself, for fear you also may be tempted.” Modesty should cause us to welcome someone’s pointing out to us where we made a mistake in our speech or conduct. Actually, all of us should have the attitude that the psalmist David had when he wrote: “Should the righteous one strike me, it would be a loving-kindness; and should he reprove me, it would be oil upon the head, which my head would not want to refuse.” (Psalm 141:5) Elders should particularly be outstanding examples in humility, not insisting on a personal view but being ready to accept readjustment, having in mind that ‘the wounds inflicted by a loving friend are faithful.’—Proverbs 27:6.
16. What sort of communication should youthful speakers welcome?
16 It is the course of wisdom and modesty for youths to seek counsel and direction from mature Christians, who will likely have something constructive to offer. Even elders can benefit in this way. For example, one elder said in a talk that the blessings mentioned at Revelation 7:16, 17, about not hungering and thirsting anymore, were things the other sheep could look forward to in the new world. However, it has been pointed out that this scripture applies primarily to the present time. (See Revelation—Its Grand Climax At Hand!, pages 126-8.) An elder in the audience felt he should mention the matter, but before he had the opportunity to do so, the speaker himself phoned and asked for any suggestion on improving his talk. Yes, let us make it easier for those who would like to help us by communicating our desire for counsel. Let us not be touchy or unduly sensitive.
17. How can communication serve to upbuild our brothers?
17 King Solomon stated a principle that can well be applied to our discussion. He said: “Do not hold back good from those to whom it is owing, when it happens to be in the power of your hand to do it.” (Proverbs 3:27) We owe our brothers love. Paul said: “Do not you people be owing anybody a single thing, except to love one another; for he that loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8) So be generous with your words of encouragement. Is a young ministerial servant giving his first public talk? Commend him. Has a sister tried hard or done exceedingly well in her Theocratic Ministry School assignment? Tell her how you enjoyed her efforts. By and large, our brothers and sisters are striving to do their best and will be encouraged by a loving expression of appreciation.
18. Where overconfidence is manifested, what would it be a kindness to do?
18 In contrast, a young speaker may have a lot of ability, but because of being young, he may exude more self-confidence than is seemly. What kind of communication would be called for here? Would it not be kind if a mature elder commended him for any fine points in his presentation but, at the same time, gently suggested ways in which he could cultivate modesty in the future? Such communication would show brotherly love and help younger ones to get rid of bad attitudes early, before they become ingrained.
19. Why should elders and family heads be communicators?
19 Elders communicate with one another and with the congregation about things that are beneficial—avoiding, of course, revealing confidential matters, such as those related to judicial problems. Being overly secretive, however, results in distrust and discouragement and can harm the warm spirit in a congregation—or in a family. For example, everyone enjoys hearing a report that is upbuilding. Just as the apostle Paul longed to communicate spiritual gifts, so elders should be anxious to impart upbuilding information to others.—Proverbs 15:30; 25:25; Romans 1:11, 12.
20. With what aspect of communication will the succeeding article deal?
20 Yes, communication is vital both in the Christian congregation and in the Christian family. Moreover, it is indispensable in yet another area. Where? In the Christian ministry. In the next article, we will consider ways to improve our communication skills in this very important activity.
How Would You Answer?
□ How may a frequent obstacle to family communication be overcome?
□ How can husbands and wives meet the challenge of communication?
□ How can parents and children avoid the generation gap?
□ How may communication in congregations and in families prove to be upbuilding?
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Good communication promotes family welfare and happiness