Communicating at the Tree of Life

by Catherine McNiel on July 07, 2020

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger….A gentle tongue is a tree of life.

—Proverbs 15:1, 4a

An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips.

—Proverbs 24:26

Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.  The proud and arrogant person— “Mocker” is his name—behaves with insolent fury.

—Proverbs 21:23-24

A few nights ago, I walked into the house while my husband was on the phone. We greeted each other (briefly, since he was engaged in a conversation); I put my keys down where I always do, placed my shoes where I always do, and went upstairs to get ready for bed.

When he came upstairs after his call twenty minutes later, he asked “What’s going on? Something seemed wrong when you came in.”

Isn’t it amazing? We hadn’t exchanged any words, nor was there any unexpected silence or absence. I did all the things I usually do, and yet volumes of communication apparently passed between us. 

Communication is a key part of being human. Communication pervades every interaction we have, and only a small percentage of the message is in the words we choose. Therefore, good and healthy communication is a skill we should all be cultivating—and there’s no doubt it’s a huge make-or-break factor in marriage.

The Gottman Institute is highly respected for their research on marriage, and well known for their “Four Horsemen of the (Marital) Apocalypse: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling.” Gottman’s research finds that marriages with one or more of these tendencies—attacking each other’s character, taking a position of moral superiority, reversing blame, or shutting down and refusing to interact—have a high likelihood of failure. 

Not surprisingly, each one of these (as well as their antidotes) center around communication.

We communicate every minute of the day, in our words, our tone, our body language—and more. And while we may carefully make an effort to communicate respectfully with those at work or church, we often save our laziest communication tendencies for those at home.

If we can learn to respond with a gentle answer, to guard our mouths and our tongues, we may save ourselves from much calamity.

A gentle tongue is a tree of life. (Proverbs 15:4a)

Questions for reflection and discussion: When have you experienced an unfortunate miscommunication? How can the wisdom of good communication skills outlined in Proverbs impact your marriage or other relationships?


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