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"A soft answer turneth away wrath" (Pro. 15:1).

Husband Bill and wife Laura are in bed one night, about to fall asleep. But just before they doze off....

Drip...drip...drip...drip....

Laura: "I can't stand it anymore! That dripping is driving me up the wall. When are you ever going to fix it?" (She's been after Bill for weeks about the leaky bathroom faucet.)

Bill: "How am I supposed to have time to fix the faucet when I'm running around doing all your other errands? I spent half the day yesterday driving your mother back home, and the other half just getting back."

Laura: "So now you're complaining about Mother again. All I did was ask you to...."

Meanwhile, husband Bill and wife Laura cannot remember how this argument even got started. (Not much sleep tonight.) We know that improving our communication skills is important because our relationships with people are God's primary channels of ministry. He is more likely to use our day-to-day relationships - instead of the supernatural - to meet our needs and the needs of others around us. And God's definition of good communication is simply "speaking the truth in love" (Eph. 4:15).

So speaking the truth in love is the key to building vital relationships, and to keeping the channels of God's blessings open and flowing. Let's examine one of the wrong ways we tend to talk to each other - like Bill and Laura. This is a pattern of conversation that can surface when we, or the people we're talking to, are faced with a problem and the pressure is on. Understanding the wrong ways can help us learn the right way to communicate. I call this the "attacker pattern."

Round One
In the case of Bill and Laura, both of them acted as attackers in their conversation. Laura started the conversation by attacking Bill. Then Bill responded with a counterattack. People who attack like this in conversations usually have aggressive personalities. They're the kind of people who strike first, and usually for one of two reasons.

First, they are frustrated with a situation and want it to change. So they confront the person they believe is causing the problem. But out of frustration, they end up attacking the person instead of discussing and solving the problem - as Laura did to Bill.

The other reason is: The best defense is a strong offense. Attacker-type people usually respond to an attack with a counterattack. Whether attacking or counterattacking, we end up violating God's principles of good communication in three ways when we attack each other in our conversations.

First of all, attackers assume the other person is responsible for their problem. And that it's up to the other person to fix it. But you may be thinking, "What about Laura - didn't she have a good reason for feeling frustrated with Bill?" Wasn't he the source of her problem?

Well, consider this. God's Word says that our contentment and satisfaction are not dependent upon any other human being - they come from within. Our satisfaction comes from our reborn spirit that has the potential for love, joy, peace, patience, etc. But if this fruit is not surfacing in our lives, it's no one's fault but our own.

Second, attackers create a threatening environment that makes it hard for the other person to hear the truth - even if it is spoken. How? Let's say a woman has a flat tire at night on a lonely stretch of road in a tough neighborhood. A car with tinted windows slowly drives up and a voice says, "Want a ride?"

Now, unless that woman recognizes the voice and car as her husband's, her brother's or someone else's she knows, she probably will turn down the offer even though she needs help.

Threatening circumstances can distort what we hear and cause us to change our normal response to a situation. So when attackers come out swinging, they threaten people, making it hard to understand what they're really trying to say. Their attack distorts the conversation, and they end up communicating nothing but threat to the other person.

Finally, when it comes to speaking the truth in love, attackers violate God's principles of love. Because basically, when they attack someone, they're saying, "You're wrong. You're bad. You blew it and I'm ticked off." They're saying that the other person is a whole lot less than what the Bible says they are in Jesus.

Now the things I'm telling you aren't just off the top of my head or out of some psychology book. The Bible talks about all this.

Build 'Em Up - Don't Shoot 'Em Down
Let's look at James 3:2 to learn more about the attacker: "For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body."

How do you feel when someone offends you? Don't you feel attacked or threatened? Well, God says if we avoid offending or causing someone to feel threatened, then we're a perfect man - we're mature. Then how do we actually confront someone with a problem and not make him or her feel offended or threatened? Let's see how Jesus does it.

We find Jesus confronting the churches in Revelation 2-3 about some problems and the changes they need to make. He does it in a very effective way that we should imitate.

He starts with the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2:2-4: "I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and how thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee."

He then goes on to tell them what needs to change. Now look at verses 12-14: "And to the angel at Pergamos write; These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. But I have a few things against thee."

And again, He goes on to list the changes they need to make. Do you see Jesus' pattern? First He acknowledges all the good things they have done - He affirms them. Then He deals with the problems. Of course, this good pattern can also be abused. Don't do this with the attitude, "Well, I really appreciate all those things you did for me today... but let me tell you what's really bugging me...." That misses the mark.

However, you're on target when you consistently tell the people in your day-to-day life that you appreciate them and the good things they do for you. Then, when a problem surfaces and you confront them about a change that needs to be made, they are less likely to feel threatened. Go to them in love and they will have no reason to raise their walls in defense.

Defuse the Bomb!
But what if you're on the receiving end of the attack, like Bill? How can you avoid a no-win situation like we saw between Bill and Laura? God tells us in a nutshell: "A soft answer turneth away wrath" (Pro. 15:1).

I got a firsthand picture of this truth one day in a town meeting. The church I pastor was planning to open a downtown mission to feed the poor. So we attended a town meeting to discuss our plans with local government officials and citizens of that area. The city was really angry with us. They were sure that we were planning something that wasn't in the city or citizens' best interest. Our presence downtown threatened them because they imagined all the transients our mission would draw into their neighborhood.

I tried my best to communicate with them, but they just couldn't hear me. In fact, the more I talked, the angrier they became. Then it dawned on me... "A soft answer turneth away wrath."

"I'm sorry," I said. "I didn't realize the depth of your feelings in this. I want to assure you that we're not going to pursue the course of action that you're concerned about." Bang! It was like deflating a balloon. The situation turned around completely. By the time the meeting was over, people were telling us how glad they were to see us coming into the community. Today, they tell us how blessed they are to have us down there - even the crime rate has dropped to zip in that neighborhood.

It started with a fierce attack... and ended with a soft answer. The issue boils down to this: Do you want to win the argument? Or do you want God's blessing and power to manifest in your relationships? If you want to avoid discord and divided relationships, then the next time you're on the receiving end of an attack in a conversation, allow God's Spirit to give you a soft answer. It will turn things around.

So that's the attack pattern. It's the Bill-and-Laura type of conversation that surfaces when there's a problem in a relationship. When you see that kind of conversation about to flare up, remember: Your goal is to speak the truth in love. Then...

Attack the problem, not the person - and you won't offend him. And if you're under attack, speak a soft word, and you'll defuse the bomb.

But don't wait for problems; start telling people today how much you appreciate them (and don't let up). Then they'll really hear you. God's Word says you're grown up (in Christ) when you can confront and not attack. It's the mark of a mature believer - and it's God's plan of communication for the body today.

Copyright © CFAITH All rights reserved.

Author Biography

Mac Hammond
Web site: Mac Hammond
 
Mac Hammond is senior pastor of Living Word Christian Center, a large and growing church in Brooklyn Park (a suburb of Minneapolis), Minnesota. He is the host of the Winner’s Way broadcast and author of several internationally distributed books. Mac is broadly acclaimed for his ability to apply the principles of the Bible to practical situations and the challenges of daily living.
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