Good Communication Begins With the Heart

Kay Arthur, Precepts for Life


Jesus tells us that man speaks out of the abundance of his heart. In other words, it's the wellspring of our heart that determines what flows from our mouths.

Is it sweet and fresh, refreshing and helpful? Or is it polluted and acidic, causing illness and damage? If I keep my heart with all diligence, then what comes out of my mouth will be the wisdom from above, rather than that which is earthly, naturally (unspiritual), and demonic (James 3:13-15).

The key lies in our hearts. And if you are a child of God under the New Covenant, you have a new heart, not a heart of stone. Your responsibility is to keep it clean through confessing your sins and keeping short accounts with God, even as David did in Psalm 51:1-10.

Whatever camps in your heart, my friend, is going to be on your tongue.

Bitter heart, bitter words.

Joyful heart, joyful words.

Loving heart, loving words.

In Ephesians 5:4, Paul tells us that there must be "no (none, zero) filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting." This means that when we talk to our mates, there is to be purity in our speech. Our words are to be gentle, reasonable-ready to yield-not always insisting on our own way, our own viewpoint. Reasonable speech is full of kindness and mercy.

Paul writes in Ephesians 4:29, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." The word translated "unwholesome" in this passage actually means "rotting" or "decaying."

I'll never forget when I was fourteen, and it was my turn to get the garbage can to the curb for the morning pickup. It had been hot weather and the stench was overpowering. But what was worse was what happened when I set the big can down and jarred the lid. It fell off, exposing a white sea of maggots. It was utterly gross. It still makes my skin crawl to think of it. Scripture says that unwholesome words are just like that. Loathsome and repulsive. Disgusting and repugnant. Such things do not belong in the heart or on the tongue of a child of God!

Our goal should be to build up others, especially our life partners.

Paul tells us that our speech should be "according to the need of the moment." Before you and I speak, we need to take time to think about what is most appropriate. In other words, what does my husband need to hear at this particular time? What words would particularly benefit my wife at this moment?

And how should we speak such words? With grace. Our words are to "give grace to those who hear." Grace is unearned, unmerited favor or blessing. It is receiving something good and pleasant even when in reality we haven't warranted it.

In James 4:1, the apostle tells us what causes dissension in relationships. "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you?" he asks. "Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?" The word translated "pleasures" is the Greek word hedone, which means "inner desires." We quarrel and fight, James says, because of the uncontrolled desires raging within us.

Have you ever been hurt because your husband or wife didn't meet your expectations? Did you want something-only to be refused? You wanted to be loved, understood, comforted, encouraged, or held, but your spouse seemed either unwilling or unable to meet your need. You sent out all the right signals, but they weren't received. Did it leave you feeling a little nettled, maybe a little angry?

I understand. I've been there, too. And I've had to consult with myself so I wouldn't lash back in anger. It was as though a war was going on within me. I've struggled and fretted, cried and fumed because I didn't get what I wanted. And then what happens? James 4:2 spells out the awful truth: "You lust and do not have; so you commit murder."

Oh, I don't mean we march to the gun cabinet, load up the shotgun, aim, and fire. I mean we let loose with both barrels filled with hateful, spiteful, angry words. We murder our mates with the buckshot of iron verbs.


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