Vol.XVII No.X Pg.6
December 1980

Carefully Communicating

Robert F. Turner

I have a message which I wish to convey to you. Since I cannot speak with you personally, I have chosen another form of communication — the written word. Now, in order for you to comprehend my message, it will be necessary for you to read and understand what I have written. Then, ideally, we should share the common thought or idea of my message.

Although it may sound simple — expressing an idea so that it will be understood is not an easy task. Most of us are constantly involved in either the sending or receiving of information, thoughts, or feelings and we tend to treat this process too lightly. Yet, whether we are speaking or listening, each of us has a responsibility in the realm of communication. We must realize how easily a message can be misused or distorted and assume our obligations as either speakers or listeners.

Solomon wisely stated "He that guardeth his mouth keepeth his life; but he that openeth wide his lips shall have destruction" (Prov. 13:3). James 1:19 reminds us to be "swift to hear, slow to speak." And Christ warns, "I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment" (Matt. 12:36). When we convey a message to someone, we must be sure that it is accurate and true — but our responsibility does not end there. We will also answer for the consequences of our words.

James writes, "So the tongue also is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how much wood is kindled by how small a fire!" (Jms. 3:5). If we are not careful, our words (though they may be true) can cause more damage than benefit. Many a truth, given to the wrong person, has been twisted and misused to the detriment of a brother or congregation. Idle words, spoken to idle minds, can easily ruin the character and reputation of innocent people. We are responsible for not only the content of our messages, but also to whom the information is given. We must remember 1 Tim. 5:13 — there are brethren who are "tattlers and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not."

With this in mind, we can see why we must be "swift to hear, slow to speak." As a listener, we may not understand what another is telling us. It is always good to "double-check" with the speaker to make sure we have the facts straight. Another thing to remember is that what we are being told by others may not be true. If we receive a disturbing message about a brother, give that brother the benefit of the doubt until you can check with him personally. We have the responsibility to carefully consider all that we hear — and then utilize only the information that is true and will benefit the cause of Christ.

In this article, as in every other message I convey, I am responsible for what I am saying. And you have an obligation to carefully consider my message — lest you distort and misuse my words. Communication between brethren can be beneficial or damaging — depending upon how carefully we speak, or how well we listen. Kevan O'Banion