The Gift of Forgiveness

Forgiveness is another topic that is common within Christian circles. As Christians, our stories are wrapped up in the idea forgiveness. God has not only forgiven us through Christ but has also called us to forgive one another. Therefore, if so much of our stories involve forgiveness it would probably be a good idea to understand what it is.

There are many mixed understandings of forgiveness. As children we are told to “forgive and forget” or that we should forgive someone even before they say they are sorry. Yet when we grow older we are given the impression not to forgive people right away because it will excuse the wrong they committed. With all these mixed views it is understandably difficult to first understand forgiveness and then know how to exercise it.

First let me tell you that forgiveness is not forgetting, it is not exonerating, and it is not tolerating. Instead, forgiveness is a step toward reconciliation “by letting go of your hurt and your desire for revenge.” When we forgive, we do not forget the wrong but instead choose not to be offended or hurt any longer. Remembering the wrong actually shows both people the level of love and grace within their relationship and discourages others from making the same hurtful mistakes. When we forgive we also let go of our desire for revenge yet uphold the desire for justice in grace. In this way we do not wait for someone to make restitution nor do we tolerate the consistent wrongdoing, but we in grace address the issue and make steps toward forgiveness and restitution.

It takes a humble attitude to extend forgiveness. Just remember that there are times when you need to be forgiven as well. When you do need to seek forgiveness from someone be sure to not make excuses. Instead admit your wrong and once more adhere to reality, in this case, the reality that you have hurt someone or done something wrong. Once you have admitted and asked forgiveness of someone, listen to them express their hurt and emotions and then allow them time to consider forgiving.

In the end, the essential aspect in forgiveness is the attitude of the heart. Just as in becoming a better listener or approaching conflict as constructive, we desperately need to have a heart of faithfulness and commitment to God and others. This loving, gracious, and grateful attitude is what keeps us from demanding justice instead of gently seeking it, dwelling on the many reasons and excuses not to forgive, and avoiding the incident all-together. It is also this attitude of commitment and gratitude that breathes life into us when we struggle to forgive our own mistakes. In such times, we need to remember that God has forgiven us to the greatest degree and that he has provided everything possible for us to forgive others.

Source

Schultze, Quentin. Badzinski, Diane: An Essential Guide to Interpersonal Communication. chapter 8

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Constructive Conflict

It has been mentioned throughout this blog series that communication is a means of breathing life into others. However, not all communication is used that way. Some communication breeds destructive criticisms or conflicts that tear down rather than build up. At the same time, not all conflicts within relationships are destructive.

Conflict itself is more than just simple disagreements; it is relationship-challenging disagreements. It is an escalation from a disagreement about an issue to a disagreement about a principle that affects decision-making and the relationship. In other words, it is a differentiation of goals, and a supposed interference of those goals by the other person. Conflict can often involve much emotion, be long-lasting, and affect the quality of life. Still there remains some conflict that sets the stage for constructive relationships.

The Bible advocates the idea of shalom, or a relational approach of peace and justice. This shalom of appreciation and gratitude for God and others was the intent of God’s original creation. It was the intent of loving God and loving others as we love ourselves. It was a looking at people as people and not as viewing someone as something to manipulate or argue against to get our own way. This idea of shalom is what constructive conflict is based on. It acknowledges that we as people are different in many ways and have different goals; therefore, we cannot avoid all conflict. Yet at the same time, it recognizes how to humbly and faithfully respond in conflicting situations.

First, in accordance with God’s intent of shalom, we should remain humble when conflict arises. Practically, we need to be careful not to attribute meaning to the other person’s actions, nor should we judge the fact that someone has mixed feelings about an issue. We all have tensions that arise over different issues, just remember that those other people are human too. In addition to humility is the element of faithfulness, which in this sense is similar to commitment. This faithfulness combines with humility and seeks to come to terms with the person, not necessarily win the argument. Humility and faithfulness do not mean that you have to back down when something is wrong, but they rather mean to gently seek the good of the person as well as seek to honor of God.

Conflicts are inevitable during the Christian life, yet they are another process of communication that can be used to destroy or give life. Choose to build up and gently bring thoughts together instead of allowing negative conflict to flourish and plant a root of bitterness.

Source:

Schultze, Quentin. Badzinski, Diane: An Essential Guide to Interpersonal Communication. Chapter 7

Enhancing Lives Through Encouragement

Most of us have seen some encouragement memes of baby with its fist in the air saying “you’ve got this” or a sunset over the beach reading “you have purpose, you are loved, there couldn’t be a better you.” Memes like this attempt to lift our spirits during some stressful days, but aside from these often enjoyable pictures there is a deeper more holistic level of encouragement. This deeper encouragement is what God seems to advocate when he tells us to encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

There are notably four types of encouragement: affirming, exhorting, modeling, and accompanying. Affirming is often the first thing that comes to mind when we talk about encouragement. Many of us have been taught to say kind words to others, yet affirming involves more than saying nice things. It suggests and honest appreciation for and understanding of the other person, which requires intentionality to express. Next, exhortation is the type of encouragement that involves counsel. This is an encouragement that requires a level of trust between the individuals yet can be rather fruitful when someone exhorts or persuades another to continue to walk faithfully of God’s calling in a broken world. Similarly, modeling persuades others to walk faithfully yet does so by someone simply living a grateful and honoring life for God’s pleasure. Finally, accompanying is the form of encouragement in which you walk alongside someone as they go through a hard time. This is not generally supposed to be a one-time offer of help, but rather a consistent and gracious friendship that carries on throughout someone’s pain.

Practicing these forms of encouragement and receiving encouragement in these ways can be an exciting experience. Yet as Christians we must remember that encouragement ultimately comes from and is made possible by God. There would be no encouragement, no hope for the future, no redemption of our own skills if it were not for the gospel. It is also notable that although it may be proper to ask others for encouragement when we need it, it is improper to encourage someone in order to have them encourage us or build us up in return. This is flattery, which is spoken against in the Bible. It has selfish intents and does not genuinely seek to use encouragement in the way it was meant to be used.

Encouragement is another way of breathing life into others. It literally means “to give courage” or “to give heart.” It is meant to provide both verbal and non-verbal support to another and convince them either of a truth of God’s Word or the potential of God-given capacities. I can tell you that I would never have flourished as writer if others had not told me that they thought I did well in that area. I would never have tried to perfect the techniques or ever believed that what I had to offer held any substance. But words and all forms of communication have the power to enhance lives and build up others. Does your communication breathe life into other? If not, start by listening and being grateful, then be intentional about letting that life flow from your heart.

 

Source

Schultze, Quentin. Badzinski, Diane: An Essential Guide to Interpersonal Communication. chapter 6

Becoming a Listener

Solid interpersonal relationships are built on commitment. The Christian’s salvation story itself exhibits this as God intentionally attended to the needs of his creation by sending Jesus to make atonement for sins, making a way of reconciliation. Listening is a way to show commitment in our relationships. It is such because when someone truly listens, they are attending to reality and focused on the other person despite all distractions. Christians today are so overwhelmed by constant messages pushing for our attention. Yet as we seek to build our relationships, we must focus on truths and situations that matter most.

A poor listener is rather easy to identify. It is someone who judges too quickly and harshly, sees reality only from their own limited viewpoint, responds thoughtlessly, or focuses on self-centered agendas. These actions may be the automatic response of some of us, but they do not foster good, life-giving relationships. Instead of showing understanding and care for others as healthy interpersonal relationships should, they focus on selfish or distracted thoughts and emotions that do not convey commitment to reality.

Instead of this destructive approach, Christians should seek to wholly listen, first by attending to God then by attending to others.  First, we should attend to God by acknowledging the reality of things that he has revealed in Scripture. Next, in light of God’s revealed Word we should attend to others, seeking shared understanding and connection. For example attending to the reality that God loves us by not only acknowledging it but having a heart of gratitude and acting upon that truth, we are better able to love others because we can attend to their needs with a more holistic vision.

To practice listening: commit to listen  to both God and others, patiently stay in the moment, remain sympathetic and empathetic, show that you are listening by smiling or summarizing back to the person what they have said, and attend to both the content of what someone is saying and the relational meanings and emotions that they are conveying.

As humans we are always trying to make sense of situations and messages. Listening is just the intentional way of committing to focus on the person and truly understand the reality of the situation, bringing it to bear on your interpersonal relationships.

Source

Schultze, Quentin.  Badzinski, Diane : An Essential Guide to Interpersonal Communication, chapter 2

A Thankful Heart is a Happy Heart

As many Christian songs express and as the classic sing-along from veggie tales suggests, having a grateful heart makes a person’s life more whole and breathes life into their communication. The song “What Can I Do”  by Paul Baloche captures the many gifts of God and the Christian’s response of gratitude. In Luke 6:45, Jesus tells his disciples the principle that “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” Here Jesus shows that the attitude that someone harbors in their heart eventually flows out into their communication and actions, affecting their relationships. Therefore the first step in cultivating good interpersonal relationships is having a proper attitude.

There are three types of people when it comes to communicating: displeased, indifferent, and grateful communicators. Displeased communicators complain about the negatives of situations or highlight the bad or substandard in others. Indifferent communicators show little concern or intentionality in their relationships and take a passive approach to relationships. However, grateful communicators express thanks for what they view to be gifts and blessings, whether it is people, situations, or God’s overarching grace. These communicators tend to be encouraging and intentionally loving toward others.

When put so plainly, this grateful attitude seems like a good thing for young Christian communicators to practice. Indeed it is! In fact it proves itself to be an attitude consistent with Scripture in which we are told to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4). But how do we practice or cultivate an attitude of the heart?

Thankfulness, like other attitudes, grows in our hearts as we practice it. It seems like a circular thought that our actions come from the heart yet our behaviors help change our attitude. Yet with a mind focused on pleasing God and a heart calling upon the Holy Spirit for help, Christians are able to practice gratitude. By regularly considering and expressing gratefulness to God and to others, making lists of what you are grateful for, and imitating other thankful people, you are able to take steps to practice having a thankful heart. Still, only God can ultimately change the heart, so Christians need to call upon the Holy Spirit in humility and trust that he will do the work of changing the heart since God has already shown his love for us by working out his own salvation for his children.

Ultimately, when seeking God and being thankful for all of his gracious gifts and being thankful for people, we live more abundant and whole lives as we are directed away from selfish, manipulative, indifferent, critical communication toward life-giving, encouraging interpersonal relationships.

Source:

Schultze, Quentin; Badzinski, Diane: An Essential Guide to Interpersonal Communication. chapter 1