One of the most important keys to friendship is communication. In today’s blog, Claudine looks at ways Jesus communicated with his disciples and discusses how deeper levels of communication can strengthen our friendships.
Many friendships suffer from lack of good, positive, thoughtful communication.
Perhaps the simplest and yet most difficult thing for anyone to do in a relationship is to TALK IN SUCH A WAY THAT EVERYONE LEAVES FULFILLED AND WHOLE.
How did Christ communicate with the men and women who followed him closely?
As I studied this question through the Gospels, I came to the conclusion that even Jesus had different types of relationships with the 12 men who followed him through thick and thin. Many were Casual, some were Close, and only one was Intimate.
Yet all of these men spoke into Christ’s life here on earth in one way or another.
He communicated with them in a variety of ways:
- He told them stories
- He answered endless questions
- He gave directives about life
- He opened the Scriptures with them
- He shared His expectations of the future
- He listened to them
- He watched them carefully
- He knew their weaknesses
- He gave them all the facts
Jesus built relationships by being creative and patient. He shared truths, studied with his friends and revealed to them his dreams and visions. He was responsive to what they were concerned and anxious about. He really knew them – their deepest thoughts and hurts. And because he knew them, he earned the right to gently rebuke – be honest and open. The friendship wasn’t all about Him. His focus was on his friends.
That’s true friendship.
So if communication is so important, what do I need to know about it?
There are five levels of communication. Each level takes the friendship deeper.
Level 1 – Cliché – This is the most common way to communicate. We often use this level in short, passing conversations: “Hi. How are you doing?” “Not bad, yourself?” A nonverbal cliché would be a nod of the head or a wave.
Level 2 – Facts and Reports— Everything here is all based on an exchange of information, but lacks personal involvement. It might sound like a weather report – “Crazy weather this weekend. Hope it warms up.” Sadly, many husbands and wives communicate only on this level – “Ball game’s at 5 tonight”, “Could you pick up the cleaning?”, etc.
Level 3 – Opinions and Judgments–Here we go deeper – share something of ourselves. An element of risk enters into the relationship: “I think…” “It seems to me…” Political opinions fall into this category. We open the doors to how we think and what is important to us and because we do, we risk being rejected – or accepted.
Level 4 – Feelings and intuitions. These do not come from logic or reason. This is how we feel. We rarely feel safe on this level – if feelings are expressed – we are opening up to a deeper part of our lives. “I’m sad today.”, “I don’t know why but I’m afraid.”, “I just don’t feel this is right.” Feelings and intuitions are neither good nor bad – they just are.
“Some conclude they are safest when they keep their feelings to themselves. As children, their feelings may have been ignored, repudiated, even punished. As teenagers, their feelings may have been laughed at or gossiped about. Few things register more profoundly in the heart than mistreatment of our feelings. Deep hurt or humiliation can cause people to suppress them so that they not only never express them to others but even avoid acknowledging them to themselves.” Quote from Gail M.
On this level we respond best by offering support and companionship. We don’t have all the answers. We just need to be there for the other person.
When we share at this level, we might begin the conversation by saying, “I have something I need to tell you. Please don’t critique it – or pick it apart or even try to figure it out. Just listen to how I feel.”
Parents need to be especially sensitive to how we react when our children express their feelings no matter how off-the-wall they are.
Level 5 –Maximum truth–In this conversation we share the values we see and the potential for growth in a friend. We all need this level 5 conversation – this affirmation of our character. In this conversation we share the potential we see in each other.
“When we treat a man as he is, we make him worse than he is. When we treat him as if he already were what he potentially could be, we make him what he should be.” Goethe
Think about how this would work with your child, or husband, friend. Consider how the Father treated Jesus –
- He was affirmed by his Heavenly Father at his baptism – “This is my Son. Whom I love, with him I am well pleased.” This affirmation gave Jesus Christ a sense of belonging, of value, of mission.
- On the Mount of transfiguration he was again affirmed by His Father. “Listen to Him” – He is worth listening to.
- These affirmations carried Jesus through three years of a difficult earthly ministry. But on the cross . . . he felt the absence of the Father. His deepest pain was the momentary loss of experiencing His Father’s affirmation.
How do our loved ones feel when we withdraw our affirmation? These last three levels of communication are vital in forming deep and lasting friendships.
Let’s pray: Dear Jesus – What a wonderful, faithful, true Friend you are. I’m so grateful for the example you’ve set for me to follow. Help me to remember: It isn’t all about me. It doesn’t matter what happens to me, as long as others are blessed and You are honored.