My very first day of my Communications 101 class in college, Professor Korpi began the class with this nugget, “The first rule of communication is this: the message sent is not always the message received.” I was reminded of this today as I left the waxing spa. I will leave the details to your imagination but let’s just say the thing I walked in there for was not the same thing I walked out with. I left there to meet a dear friend for lunch at a new place in town and somehow ended up ordering a $14 sandwich. Now, it was a good sammy, but not $14 good. Again, what we had here was a failure to communicate.
I am realizing the older I get that really, the quality of our relationships is determined by our ability to communicate. How much of our frustration and emotional energy is spent on issues that really boil down to miscommunication? The things we say, the things we don’t and the tone in which we use to communicate are all related to how our message is received. A great example is my friend Lizzie. She’s a native Brit who made her way across the pond in her 30’s to marry a strapping lad from Oklahoma. While we both speak English, we have to stop occasionally and clarify the meaning of what we just said. Some things get lost in translation.
Is it possible that we humans do the same thing with Jesus? That some things get distorted as we view them thru the lens of our broken humanity?
What did we hear God say? What did He actually say? How does this affect our relationship with Him? I’m learning that some of the time, the real problem is not what He said but what I thought He said. I will hear the Lord very clearly about the next step to take in any given situation. The problem comes in when I take that to mean I now know the next 12 steps and off I go. Then it all goes to crap and I’m a blubbering mess because things didn’t go the way I expected. #boo. I have a nasty little habit of filling in the gaps and writing the rest of the story when I really only have enough information to write the first paragraph. The real problem is a listening problem.
I believe this is true for most of the lack of communication that goes on in our world. We don’t really listen. We hear the first two sentences that someone shares and we are already formulating our response. We so badly need to feel heard that we sacrifice really listening at the expense of another precious soul who needs the same. But the good book has something to say about that.
Isaiah 48:18 tells us:
“If only you had listened to my commands, your peace would be like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea.”
That’s a pretty straightforward directive. If we listen, we will have peace. If we jump the gun and run our mouth, we miss out. Just like other instructions the Lord gives, listening is always for our good. Maybe it’s protection or provision or direction that we’re seeking. Or maybe comfort in the middle of a big ol’ storm is what we need. No matter the circumstances, we always gain more when we listen than when we speak. Peace is the side effect that comes when we really listen.
But be careful little ears what you hear. Don’t just allow idle chatter and negative nonsense invade your headspace. That’s another topic for another blog. I’m talking about really listening in the context of authentic relationships. With humans, connect eyeball to eyeball and pay attention. Then take an extra beat to pause and think before responding. I have found that if I do this, I am much more likely to hear the hurt behind the heart of the matter. We all live out of our brokenness anyway. Sometimes, we just need somebody to acknowledge it. When the message sent becomes the message received, real connection happens. And beautiful things happen when we connect.