Christian Biblical Counsel: COMMUNICATION, GOSSIP, LYING

Communication, Gossip, Lying

1.   The psalmist has given us a model prayer for good speech.

Ps. 19:14. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.

2.   Commit yourself to speaking only what is right and true.

Prov. 8:6–8. Listen, for I will speak of excellent things, And from the opening of my lips will come right things; For my mouth will speak truth; Wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All the words of my mouth are with righteousness; Nothing crooked or perverse is in them.

3.   Do not speak harshly.

Eph. 4:29. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.

4.   Avoid harsh words.

Prov. 15:1. A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.

5.   Be quick to listen, slow to speak.

James 1:19. So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath;

6.   Listen before you speak.

Prov. 18:13. He who answers a matter before he hears it, It is folly and shame to him.

7.   God forbids us to lie; he wants us to speak the truth.

Exod. 20:16. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”

Eph. 4:25. Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another.”

8.   The Lord detests lying.

Prov. 12:22. Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, But those who deal truthfully are His delight.

9.   All lying is of the devil, the father of all lies.

John 8:44. “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.”

10. Lying will be punished.

Prov. 19:9. A false witness will not go unpunished, And he who speaks lies shall perish.

11. Do not hurt your neighbor by gossip or careless talk; control your tongue.

Prov. 11:11–13. By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted, But it is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked. He who is devoid of wisdom despises his neighbor, But a man of understanding holds his peace. A talebearer reveals secrets, But he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.

Prov. 12:18. There is one who speaks like the piercings of a sword, But the tongue of the wise promotes health.

Prov. 17:27–28. He who has knowledge spares his words, And a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.

Prov. 29:19. A servant will not be corrected by mere words; For though he understands, he will not respond.

Prov. 21:23. Whoever guards his mouth and tongue Keeps his soul from troubles.

12. Tame the tongue; it can be very destructive.

James 3:1–12.

13. We must help stop gossip and strife.

Prov. 26:20. Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.

14. Be careful. Don’t speak rashly.

Prov. 13:3. He who guards his mouth preserves his life, But he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction.[1]



The Heart of the Matter

by June Hunt

Have you ever paused to evaluate the impact of how you communicate? A thoughtful, encouraging word, an empathetic comment, a compassionate glance … or a careless comment, a rude remark, a sarcastic smirk … what do they really communicate to those closest to you? Your words have the potential of bringing life or death to the heart of another. Your words, along with underlying attitudes, will either build others up or tear them down, strengthen them in the Lord or weaken their faith.

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

(Proverbs 18:21)

i.     definition

We just don’t communicate! This familiar phrase is anything but accurate. You constantly and continually deliver messages that reveal the true disposition of your heart. It’s not just what you say, but the way you say it … the way you listen to others and the way you look at others … are all means of communication. It’s not a matter of whether you will communicate, but a matter of what you will communicate. And ultimately, the thing that determines whether you encourage or discourage others—whether you help or hurt others—is your heart. Your communication originates not in your mind but in your heart.

“Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”

(Matthew 12:34)

A. What Is Communication?

Unfortunately, many conversations can be compared to a tennis match: two players stand on opposite ends of the court preparing to send the ball across the net in such a way that the other has little or no chance of a successful return. The goal is not to keep the ball going back and forth between them, but to deliver the ball so as to prevent a response.

Good relational conversations can be better characterized as a game of “catch.” Both people attempt to deliver the ball to the other in such a way that it can be received and then successfully returned. The goal is not to win but to keep the ball going back and forth between them.

•     Satisfying relational communication is a process of verbal and nonverbal interaction with others in which thoughts and feelings are shared and understood—that is, the receiver of the communication hears what is said and understands what is meant by the sender.

—  Verbal communication conveys thoughts and feelings with the spoken word—both choice of words and tone of voice.

—  Nonverbal communication expresses thoughts and feelings without words (facial expressions, body posture, hand gestures, direct or indirect eye contact, patient or impatient listening, gentle or rough touch, style of dress and clothing, apathetic or silent responses, platonic or romantic kisses, style of discipline, use of money or gifts).

•     The Hebrew word dabar, which means “word,” is used in the Old Testament to express the concept of communication. It implies speaking about a matter. The Bible, referred to as God’s Word, speaks to us about God and is one of the ways God speaks to us on matters pertaining to life. Old Testament language also speaks about the life-giving power of God’s Word.

“He sent forth his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave.” (Psalm 107:20)

•     In New Testament Greek, logos (word) is not just “the expression of a thought, concept or idea,” but refers also to the name of an object. In the first chapter of John, “the Word” (logos) signifies the Divine Expression, Christ.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

“How can I communicate with others in a way that is most pleasing to God?”

A  The method of communication most pleasing to God is one that reflects Jesus Christ in all you say and do. That means allowing Jesus Christ to be Lord of your life … allowing Him to express His words and actions through you.

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:16–17)

B. What Are Some Guidelines for Effective Communication?

Good relational communication has these three basic characteristics.

#1        Warmth—conveying acceptance and courtesy

Warmth says, “You are important to me. You are valuable to me. I enjoy and respect you. I will not try to make you a carbon copy of myself, but rather I desire that you fully realize your own potential.”

#2        Genuineness—having no hidden agendas

Genuineness says, “I am not trying to manipulate you, nor am I trying to bend you to my will. I want to make it safe for you to communicate with me and safe for you to trust that I will be truthful with you.”

#3        Empathy—putting one’s self in the other’s circumstances—“walking in another’s shoes”

Empathy says, “While I may not know exactly what you are going through, I’m trying to understand the emotions you feel and the challenges you face. I will seek to understand you, rather than trying to make you understand me.”

The “Ten Commandments” of Godly Communication

The Bible gives many directives for the words we use in communicating with others. The following are Ten Commandments that reflect fundamental principles of godly communication.

#1        Your words are to be truthful.

“The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.” (Proverbs 12:22)

#2        Your words are to be pleasing to God.

“May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight.” (Psalm 19:14)

#3        Your words are to be life-giving.

“The tongue has the power of life and death.” (Proverbs 18:21)

#4        Your words are to be encouraging.

“Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

#5        Your words are to be gracious.

“Words from a wise man’s mouth are gracious, but a fool is consumed by his own lips.” (Ecclesiastes 10:12)

#6        Your words are to be wise.

“Wisdom is found on the lips of the discerning, but a rod is for the back of him who lacks judgment.” (Proverbs 10:13)

#7        Your words are to be few.

“When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” (Proverbs 10:19)

#8        Your words are to be timely.

“A man finds joy in giving an apt reply—and how good is a timely word!” (Proverbs 15:23)

#9        Your words are to be an investment.

“From the fruit of his lips a man is filled with good things as surely as the work of his hands rewards him.” (Proverbs 12:14)

#10      Your words are to be loving.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” (1 Corinthians 13:1)

“You shall not give false testimony.”

(Exodus 20:16)

C. What Are Some Levels of Communication?

While we may pride ourselves in being open and honest with others, the truth is we all have to put on suits of armor to protect our thoughts and feelings. From the moment Adam and Eve recognized their sin, they sought to cover themselves and hide. They no longer wanted to be open and honest with God. Each of us, in our own way, does the same. We develop outer facades that hide inner needs. The following levels of communication are stages of personal development that will bring you out of hiding in order to communicate honestly with God … and subsequently, to face truth and to be vulnerable with others.

“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves … and they hid from the Lord God.”

(Genesis 3:7–8)

     Level #1 Common (superficial)

General remarks or inquiries that are appropriate between strangers represent the most superficial level of communication. While this kind of communication is often only a polite exchange to acknowledge someone, it can also open the door to deeper levels of communicating.


—  “Nice to meet you.”

—  “Where are the elevators?”

Biblical Example:

—  Read John 4:7–9.

     Level #2 Casual

Statements and information are shared, but no real personal interaction occurs. This level of communication centers on other people, events or places.


—  “Did you know Mary Jones when you grew up?”

—  “Have you ever been to the ocean?”

Biblical Example:

—  Read John 4:10–11.

     Level #3 Comfortable

Thoughts and ideas are communicated in this first step toward risk taking. Objections, judgments, and decisions are easily expressed. True interaction is still guarded while one’s emotional antenna looks for any signs of disapproval or rejection.


—  “I really think the government has too much control over our children’s education.”

—  “It would be hard to live in a climate that has extremely cold winters.”

Biblical Example:

—  Read John 4:12–14.

     Level #4 Caring

Feelings and emotions are shared by moving beyond “head talk” into revealing “who I am.” Ideas are still communicated, but now the facts are accompanied by how I really feel about these ideas. I am expressing a sincere desire that you know and understand me. I am willing to risk sharing my own perspective so that I can then understand yours. And I will do so with courtesy.


—  “God has given you many talents … and sometimes I feel inferior.”

—  “I think you are very smart … and it makes me proud to be your friend.”

Biblical Example:

—  Read John 4:16–26.

     Level #5 Committed

Freedom from all fear of judgment or rejection may allow for complete emotional connection with another person. Reserved for communion with God, with a marriage partner or with the closest of friends, this highest level of communication requires complete openness and deep honesty. In these encounters deeply held beliefs and feelings are totally shared. Two hearts are joined, two spirits are united and feelings are reciprocated. There is mutual understanding and empathy … there is perfect communication! This level of communication takes hard work. It is much more difficult to communicate heartfelt emotions than it is to communicate factual information. It also takes time: revelational understanding does not come in snatches of conversation, but rather in extended interaction. And this level of communication succeeds only with positive regard for one another.


—  “Perhaps I’m too sensitive, but it hurt me when you shared the details of my illness with your friend Karen.”

—  “I don’t know why it bothers me when you laugh at my mistakes, but it does.”

Biblical Example:

—  Read John 11:32–35.

Dishonesty has a way of creeping into all our relationships, but the ultimate price of any deception results in the disintegration of honest communication. Anyone who enters into a relationship thinking that it is good to keep the peace by disguising true feelings has developed patterns that destroy the bridge to deep and fulfilling communication.

“A malicious man disguises himself with his lips, but in his heart he harbors deceit.”

(Proverbs 26:24)


ii.    characteristics of negative communication

Every person must plead guilty to some violation of God’s ideal for communicating. Without thinking, we attempt to meet inner needs by speaking and responding in ways that intimidate or destroy. The following words and ways are verbal and nonverbal negative communication habits that serve only to wound and wrong others.

A. Words That Wound

“A wise man’s heart guides his mouth.”

(Proverbs 16:23)

     Degrading Words

Thoughtless, insensitive, teasing, wisecracking, critical, coarse, tactless, indelicate expressions, inappropriate words


—  “Surely you don’t believe that.…”

—  “He is very sensual and sexy.…”

Biblical Example:

“Reckless words pierce like a sword.” (Proverbs 12:18)

•     Demanding Words

Ordering, threatening, arguing, cursing, accusing, probing, angry words


—  “You’d better do this now or.…”

—  “Why were you so late … where were you?”

Biblical Example:

“Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming.” (Proverbs 27:4)

•     Demeaning Words

Moralizing, preaching, lecturing, judging, criticizing, disapproving, condemning words


—  “You never consider my feelings.…”

—  “You should do better than that.…”

Biblical Example:

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” (Proverbs 18:21)

•     Destructive Words

Gossiping, repeating rumors or confidences, discrediting, belittling, blaming others, slandering words


—  “She never arrives at work on time.”

—  “Be sure not to repeat this but.…”

Biblical Example:

“With his mouth the godless destroys his neighbor.” (Proverbs 11:9)

•     Deceitful Words

Lying, false statements, exaggerating, bragging, boasting, flattering, insincere, untruthful words


—  “I never really get angry at anyone.…”

—  “My goal is to benefit others in any way I.…”

Biblical Example:

“A deceitful tongue crushes the spirit.” (Proverbs 15:4)

“Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse.”

(Proverbs 2:12)

B. Wrongful Ways

•     Disagreeable Ways

The following irresponsible and insensitive ways of communicating, often used by people who are not aware of how disagreeable this style of communication can be, become habits that do not bring glory to God.

“For a man’s ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all his paths.”

(Proverbs 5:21)

—  Am I   dominating?


monopolizing   or controlling conversation


—  Am I   interrupting?


with a   competing spirit


—  Am I   nagging?


finding fault   incessantly


—  Am I   complaining?


making crisis   or problem dominated conversation


—  Am I   criticizing?


dwelling on   the negative


—  Am I   cutting?


making   jabbing, sarcastic remarks


—  Am I   ridiculing?


making another   the object of laughter


—  Am I   arguing?


disagreeing   and disputing


—  Am I   moralizing?


lecturing and   giving unsolicited advice


—  Am I   generalizing?


simplifying or   making light of real concerns


“An offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city, and disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel.”

(Proverbs 18:19)

•     Defensive Ways

These ten, usually unintentional, self-protective patterns are evasive tactics used to avoid looking at one’s own defects or imperfections.

“He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.”

(Proverbs 28:13)

#1        Am I countering the one who confronts with words of denial?

#2        Am I evading self-examination by focusing on the faults of the other?

#3        Am I blaming my responses on the actions of the other person?

#4        Am I bringing up the other’s mistakes from the past?

#5        Am I rationalizing my behavior because of the circumstances?

#6        Am I arguing about a trivial point to evade the real issue?

#7        Am I changing the subject without responding to what was communicated?

#8        Am I refusing to talk or respond?

#9        Am I hiding in work activities to avoid intimacy?

#10      Am I choosing to ignore grievances and allowing my own feelings to fester?

“He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise.”

(Proverbs 15:31)

•     Deceptive Ways

Ten intentional versions of untruthfulness (lies and deceptions) reveal open rebellion and foolhardy denial of God’s claim on one’s life.

“The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.”

(Proverbs 14:8)



Am   I lying?


knowingly   giving wrong information/impressions




Am   I blaming?


shifting   responsibility to another




Am   I flattering?


complimenting   with hidden motives




Am   I gossiping?


telling rumors   about others




Am   I boasting?


bragging and   flattering myself




Am   I diverting?


changing the   subject




Am   I pouting?


refusing to   communicate verbally




Am   I patronizing?


pretending to   agree or give support




Am   I discriminating?


choosing to   hear only what I want to hear




Am   I misleading?


communicating   only partial truth


“Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

(Colossians 3:9–10)


iii.   causes of negative communication

We are created to have relationships. God’s heart desire is not only that we enjoy a personal relationship with Him … but that we develop and experience loving relationships with others. However, our sinfulness often gets in the way. Remember Adam’s response when God called out to him in the garden? It could be paraphrased something like … “I heard You seek to communicate with me, but knowing I had disobeyed, I was afraid You wouldn’t love me anymore. It seemed better to hide so You couldn’t see the truth. Actually, it’s not my fault! The companion You gave me caused the whole problem.” Adam began acting out sin by seeking to meet his needs for love, for significance and for security in the way he thought best.

“The Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’ He answered, ‘I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.’ And he said, ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?’ The man said, ‘The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.’ ”

(Genesis 3:9–12)

“Why is it often difficult to have healthy communication within close relationships?”

A  Healthy, mature communication is the revelation of our true selves to someone who cares about us. Risk of rejection can be so intense that we learn different ways to hide our fears and self-doubts. We may not be aware of the destructive habits that were often formed in childhood and that stayed with us into adulthood. Yet they remain established responses that block honest and sincere communication with others.

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” (1 Corinthians 13:11)

A. Hidden Agendas

Am I allowing God to meet my emotional needs for love, for significance and for security? Am I resting in the assurance of my God-given self-worth? When I know that I have all I need in Christ, my heart becomes free to focus on the needs of others. Only then will Christ communicate His sincere love through me. Search your own heart. Are you free to love others or are you still in bondage, trying to get your own needs met through self-focused, hidden agendas?

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

(Jeremiah 17:9)

•     I will receive love if I hide my faults, stuff my feelings, look good, become popular, give gifts, flatter those around me and am always willing to please or help others.

•     I will have significance if I deny my failures, appear superior, dominate, judge and criticize others, point out faults, perform well, get attention or impress others.

•     I will be secure if I conceal my fears, deny my anger, avoid conflict, shade the truth, withhold trust, dodge vulnerability, require certain conditions and, above all, stay in control.

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”

(Philippians 2:3–5)

B. Hiding Places

Since I want to appear perfect, but know I am not, it is often easier to avoid communication. I don’t want others to see that I am anxious, fearful, hurting, angry, concerned or experiencing failure. Although the following rationalizations are defense mechanisms we often use to avoid revealing “the real me” to our loved ones, we can never hide who we are from God.

“ ‘Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ ”

(Jeremiah 23:24)

•     “What good would it do to talk about it?”

•     “Why start an argument?”

•     “I can handle this on my own.”

•     “I don’t want to worry her.”

•     “I’m uncomfortable talking about my problems.”

•     “We didn’t talk about these kinds of things in our family.”

•     “I’m probably too sensitive.”

•     “Humor is the best way to avoid sensitive subjects.”

•     “I don’t have an outgoing personality.”

•     “Women are supposed to be more expressive than men.”

C. Heart of the Matter

Your willingness to become a more loving communicator will be dependent on your basic belief system. You may think you want to develop closer, more honest relationships, but if your emotions still need confirmation from others, your communication will be self-focused and insincere.

Wrong Belief:

“I feel unworthy and inadequate. If I let others know who I really am, I risk their disapproval and rejection.”

By-products of this thinking

•     low self-worth

•     apathy

•     bitterness

•     selfishness

•     insecurity

•     anger

•     resentment

•     pride

Right Belief:

My heart overflows with love, significance and security in the Lord Jesus Christ. I don’t need the approval and acceptance of others to have a God-given sense of self-worth. Therefore, I am free to communicate honestly and openly with others.

By-products of this thinking

•     a heart that can be honest before God

•     a heart that can be honest with others

•     a heart that can see the needs of others

•     a heart that can communicate God’s love to others

“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” (Romans 15:7)

With Christ in you …

The motivation to withdraw to be bitter and blame, to use silence or shame, to interrupt and complain is changed to …

The motivation to reach out to listen with care, to be loving and fair, to serve others and share!—June Hunt


iv.  steps to solution

A. Key Verse to Memorize

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

(Ephesians 4:29)

B. Key Passage to Read and Reread

Ephesians chapter 4

Who’s in Control?

All of us have said words we wish we had never said the minute we said them. Chapter four of Ephesians has the answer to this regrettable dilemma. Give God control of your life. He will enable you to harness the power of your words through applying these practical insights.

How to give Christ control …

•     Desire to live a life that pleases God.


v.   1


•     Pray for humility, gentleness, patience   and forgiveness.


v.   2


•     Seek to keep peace and have a oneness of   spirit with others.


v.   3


•     Make union with God’s Spirit your goal.


vv.   4–6


•     Know that your power for control is in   unity with Christ.


vv.   7–13


With Christ in control you will …

•     Give up your childish insecurities.


v.   14


•     Speak truthfully, in love.


v.   15


•     Become more like Christ.


v.   15


•     Build up others in love.


v.   16


•     Live like a child of God … not of the   world.


vv.   17–18


•     Be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading.


v.   19


•     Exchange your old life for a new life in   Christ.


vv.   20–24


•     Maintain honesty with yourself and   others.


v.   25


•     Refuse to let your anger take control.


v.   26


•     Keep Satan from getting a foothold in   your life.


v.   27


•     Do honest work, and share with those in   need.


v.   28


•     Use your words to build up and encourage   others.


v.   29


•     Refuse to grieve the Holy Spirit.


v.   30


•     Refuse to speak maliciously of others.


v.   31


•     Be kind, compassionate and forgiving.


v.   32


C. A Heart That Listens

Whether they are the complaints of an elderly woman, the arguments of a defensive teenager or the incessant chatter of a four-year-old, words of others are either endured or embraced. Listening is easy to fake, attentiveness is simple to pretend, but real listening requires effort. Our self-centered tendency is to tune others out and our own thoughts in. We tend to muse and reminisce or think about what we are going to say next. As you begin to understand that God, more often than not, communicates to you through the words of others (and through your words to others), your heart will desire to be an attentive listener. The major step to becoming a genuine listener is learning how to listen to God!

“Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.”

(Proverbs 1:5)

Listening to God

•     Listening to God requires a belief that God loves me and desires to communicate with me.

“The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.’ ” (Jeremiah 31:3)

•     Listening to God requires consistent reading, studying and meditating on His living Word, the Bible.

“My word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11)

•     Listening to God means regularly getting alone and giving Him my undivided attention.

“He went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone.” (Matthew 14:23)

•     Listening to God is opening my heart and letting God point His finger of truth on the real me.

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23–24)

•     Listening to God is listening carefully to others, realizing that God may be using them to communicate His personal message to me.

“Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.” (Proverbs 13:10)

•     Listening to God is recognizing the presence of the Holy Spirit within me and responding to His guidance for communicating with others.

“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26)

Listening to Others

•     Listen with focused attention.

—  Don’t interrupt!

—  Don’t let emotions of anger override your thinking.

—  Don’t begin thinking of how you are going to respond.

—  Don’t be quick to answer.

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

(James 1:19)

—  Do … Hear feelings that are being expressed (look beyond the content to the context).

—  Do … Try to empathize with the feelings of the other.

—  Do … Reflect (repeat or paraphrase, when appropriate) what is being said and/or felt.

—  Do … Maintain eye contact.

“He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame.”

(Proverbs 18:13)

•     Listen without judging.

—  Don’t criticize.

—  Don’t show contempt or disgust.

—  Don’t communicate your opinions.

—  Don’t react in ways that will put another in a defensive position.

“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

(James 1:19)

—  Do … Allow another to grumble and complain.

—  Do … Allow expression of negative feelings.

—  Do … Release your own ideas of what is right.

—  Do … Recognize that you also can be negative and discontented.

“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”

(Romans 2:1)

•     Listen without dispensing advice.

—  Don’t give premature answers.

—  Don’t repeat platitudes and clichés.

—  Don’t quote Scripture.

—  Don’t laugh or make fun of another’s feelings.

“When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.”

(Proverbs 10:19)

—  Do … Take seriously the words of another.

—  Do … Help others to discover their own answers.

—  Do … Realize that attentive listening is more important than talking.

—  Do … Realize that most people are not really seeking advice.

“Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.”

(Proverbs 17:28)

•     Listen without becoming defensive.

—  Don’t expect others to have your point of view.

—  Don’t argue when you disagree with what is being said.

—  Don’t return an insult with an insult.

—  Don’t avoid the negative feedback of others.

“A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.”

(Proverbs 19:11)

—  Do … Display acceptance even when you disagree with another’s words.

—  Do … Look for the kernel of truth when confronted by another.

—  Do … Focus on points of agreement instead of differences.

—  Do … Seek to understand how your emotions are affecting your communication. Seek to understand, not just to be understood.

“Live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called.”

(1 Peter 3:8–9)

•     Listen with humility.

—  Don’t see humility as a weakness.

—  Don’t seek your own recognition and praise.

—  Don’t become easily provoked.

—  Don’t have a know-it-all attitude.

“A man’s pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor.”

(Proverbs 29:23)

—  Do … Desire God’s approval, knowing that you are His beloved child.

—  Do … Seek to serve others.

—  Do … Value advice from others.

—  Do … Be quick to overlook an offense.

“He who covers over an offense promotes love.”

(Proverbs 17:9)

•     Listen with love.

—  Don’t close your heart to another.

—  Don’t tune out unpleasant conversation.

—  Don’t find ways to avoid conversation.

—  Don’t communicate impatience or boredom.

“Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.”

(Proverbs 3:3)

—  Do … Listen with a heart of compassion.

—  Do … Listen with unconditional acceptance.

—  Do … Listen with an attitude of respect.

—  Do … Listen for underlying feelings. Empathy binds us together.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

(1 Corinthians 13:4–7)

D. Wonderful Words of Life

Sing them over again to me,

Wonderful words of life;

Let me more of their beauty see,

Wonderful words of life.

Many old hymns that have been set aside for newer, more contemporary songs of praise still strike chords of truth today. An old favorite written by Philip Bliss in 1875 reminds us of the value of words and their significance. How we choose to use them can have great consequence to the way we communicate. Appropriately and aptly suited, words have the power to speak a dialogue of love!

“The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”

(Proverbs 18:21)


Communicate care.

•     Wrong: “What’s the matter with you?”

Right: “I really care about your feelings. Are you okay?”

Open the door on the past.

•     Wrong: “I’ll bet you are just like your father.”

Right: “I would like to know how you felt about your father.”

Move away from manipulation.

•     Wrong: “If you don’t talk with me now, I’ll never speak to you again.”

Right: “When is a good time for us to talk?”

Mirror the message back.

•     Wrong: “I can’t believe you said that.”

Right: “I hear you saying that you feel I have rejected you. Is that Right?”

Use “I” messages instead of “you” messages.

•     Wrong: “You make me feel like a zero.”

Right: “I’m struggling with feeling that I am of little value to you.”

Never say “never.”

•     Wrong: “You never let me talk.”

Right: “I feel at times that my opinions are not respected.”

Invest yourself in the other person’s security.

•     Wrong: “It is so frustrating trying to get you to talk to me.”

Right: “Have I made it safe for you to respond?”

Clarify when confused.

•     Wrong: “I can tell that you just don’t want me around.”

Right: “Would it be better if I were not here at this time?”

Avoid arguments.

•     Wrong: “I totally disagree with your way of thinking.”

Right: “Help me understand your reasons for this decision.”

Trust the Lord’s timing.

•     Wrong: “We’re going to talk, and I mean now!”

Right: “Let’s talk when it’s convenient for you.”

Eliminate expectations.

•     Wrong: “I have a right to expect you to change.”

Right: “I love you and am committed to our relationship.”

E. Understanding Gender Differences in Communication

Every person is a unique creation of God, but there are some traits common to most men that differ from the traits common to most women. For example …

•     Men … are task-oriented.


•     Women … are relationship-oriented.


A   husband and wife get together at the end of a busy day. She begins to share   how frustrated she feels trying to balance the demands of a part-time job,   the discipline of the children, and the upkeep on the house. He wants to   solve her problem and begins to develop a strategy and a schedule to permit   her to work more efficiently—jumping into his time management mode. She, on   the other hand, wants him just to hold her and to understand her frustration,   not to solve her problem. She sees him as insensitive. He sees her as   undisciplined. And an opportunity for close communication is lost.


•     Men use communication to solve   problems.


•     Women use conversation to build   relationships.


•     Two men walk out to their automobiles   after a hard day’s work, and the vehicle of one will not start. They will   discuss the clogged carburetor, the dead battery or the broken fuel line.   Their conversation will revolve around their efforts to get the car started.


•     Two women in the same circumstances will   be discussing how they feel about the whole situation and how they can   further build their friendship.


•     For men, the primary component of   communication is a sharing of information.


•     For women, the primary component of   communication is a sharing of emotion.


•     A man says, “This is what is!”


•     A woman says, “This is how I feel about   what is!”


•     Men want headlines.


•     Women want the fine print.


•     A man says, “Just the facts, Ma’am!”


•     A woman says, “Explain yourself!”


•     Men speak for report.


•     Women speak for rapport.


•     A man wants the details so that he can   find a solution.


•     A woman wants connection so that her   relationship can be enriched.


F.  A Heart That Speaks Love

Languages of Love from the Book of Luke

Once we understand that relationships, not accomplishments, have the deepest meaning in life, our primary goal in communication becomes, “How can I meet the love needs of another?” Do you know what specific language fills the emotional needs of those God has placed in your life to love? Are you aware of the meaningful expressions of affection that fill up your own cup? Selfless behavior and self-disclosure are like sugar and cream … the flavor enhancements to deeper and more intimate communication. Everyone needs one or more of these expressions of sincere love in order for life to “taste good!”

•     Time … a healthy dose of opportunities for intimate interaction (both quantity and quality of time)

—  Undivided, focused attention


Put the   newspaper down.


—  Eye contact


“I love you”   seen from across the room.


—  Listening without giving advice


No formulas   for fixing it, please.


—  Togetherness activities


“Let’s go for   a walk.”


—  Physical presence


“I like having   you around.”


Biblical Example:

Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus

(Read Luke 10:38–42.)

•     Talk … compliments and words that affirm or build up

—  Words of affirmation


“Our   relationship is important to me.”


—  Verbal compliments


“You did a   great job on this meal.”


—  Encouragement


“I’ve noticed   that you write thoughtful notes and letters.”


—  Words of appreciation


“I really   appreciate your cleaning up the garage.”


—  Words spoken kindly


“I love you.   Will you please forgive me?”


Biblical Example:

Parable of tree and its fruit

(Read Luke 6:43–45.)

•     Tasks … doing things that are meaningful to one another

—  Acts of serving one another


Pitching in   when help is needed


—  Acts of serving one another


Pitching in   when help is needed


—  Doing chores together


Cooking,   cleaning, yard work or running errands


—  Recognizing when there is a need


“You’re   feeling bad. Let me clean up.”


—  Discerning the “right” things to do


What is most   meaningful to the other … not to you?


—  Serving your loved one’s extended family


“I’ll sit with   your grandmother in the hospital.”


Biblical Example:

The Good Samaritan

(Read Luke 10:30–37.)

•     Tokens … giving gifts as visual symbols of love

—  Communicate love and affection through giving gifts.

—  Discern what kind of gifts are most desired, not what you would desire.

—  Gifts should never be used as a bribe or have strings attached.

—  Cost is not the issue unless it is way out of line with the available resources.

—  Tokens of love can also be written notes of admiration and encouragement.

Biblical Example:

The widow’s mite

(Read Luke 21:1–4.)

•     Touch … tender and loving physical contact

—  Kissing, touching and embracing often

—  Appropriate, playful touching

—  Holding hands

—  Back and foot rubs

—  Hand on the shoulder

Biblical Example:

Jesus anointed by a sinful woman

(Read Luke 7:36–38.)

“How do I discover another’s language of love?”

A  Ask yourself …

•     “What complaints do I hear the most in regard to what I am not doing?”

•     “What am I often requested to do?”

•     “How does my loved one show love to others?”

•     “Have I lovingly asked what is most meaningful?”

•     “Can I respond in another’s language of love … even when I don’t feel like it?”

“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11)

Seven Don’ts for Successful Listening

Are You Listening?

#1        Don’t feel you must do the talking.

“[There is] a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:7)

#2        Don’t give premature advice.

“He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame.” (Proverbs 18:13)

#3        Don’t become defensive.

“A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.” (Proverbs 19:11)

#4        Don’t become hot-tempered.

“A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.” (Proverbs 15:18)

#5        Don’t laugh at others.

“A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue.” (Proverbs 11:12)

#6        Don’t hold on to hatred.

“Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.” (Proverbs 10:12)

#7        Don’t break a confidence.

“A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.” (Proverbs 11:13)

Recipe for Reconciliation

When life gives you lemons … make lemonade! If you add the right ingredients, the same transformation may occur in your communication with a loved one. Practice following this easy recipe and taste the sweetness of reconciling painful differences.

“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”

(Proverbs 16:24)


When one of you feels sour (hurt, frustrated or unjustly treated), don’t hold it in. Communicate feelings (anger or unmet need) by squeezing out the truth in a loving, nonaccusatory way.

•     Share the problem using “I” statements.

—  “I’m feeling betrayed. Would you be willing to listen?”

•     Describe only the upsetting words or behavior without criticizing character.

•     Do not accuse, belittle, call names or criticize.

“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.… ‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.”

(Ephesians 4:15, 26)


The person being confronted indicates a willingness to listen (to receive the rebuke without becoming angry or defensive) and sincerely seeks to hear the other’s pain.

•     Respond with a willingness to give undivided attention.

—  “Yes, I will listen.”

•     Do not interrupt. Hear the problem to the “last drop.”

•     Above all, don’t make excuses or become defensive.

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

(Ephesians 5:21)


The listener now paraphrases the problem back (repeats what is heard) without reacting negatively.

•     Affirm what is being said.

—  “You are saying you felt betrayed last night when I did not defend you? Is this correct?”

•     Agreement with the facts is not necessary.

•     Ask if your understanding of the problem is correct.

“He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise.”

(Proverbs 15:31)


After feelings have been delivered and received, the hurting one is allowed to request a change in behavior. Willingness to listen and change behavior becomes the sweet ingredient for developing intimacy in the relationship.

•     Injured one makes a request.

—  “When someone criticizes me in front of you, would you be willing to express emotional support by making a comment on my behalf?”

•     Listener identifies some acceptable responses for use in the future.

•     Listener is willing to please the other with a commitment to change.

“A longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but fools detest turning from evil.”

(Proverbs 13:19)

“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

(Philippians 2:4)


Chapman, Gary. The Five Love Languages. Chicago: Northfield, 1992.

Crabb, Lawrence J., Jr. Understanding People: Deep Longings for Relationship. Ministry Resources Library. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987.

Downs, Tim. Finding Common Ground: How to Communicate with Those Outside the Christian Community While We Still Can. Chicago: Moody, 1999.

Huggins, Kevin D. Friendship Counseling: Jesus’ Model for Speaking Life-Words to Hurting People. Colorado Springs, CO: Navpress, 2003.

Hunt, June. Counseling Through Your Bible Handbook. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007. Hunt, June. How to Forgive … When You Don’t Feel Like It. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.

Hunt, June. How to Handle Your Emotions. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Hunt, June. Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.

Koch, Ruth N., and Kenneth C. Haugk. Speaking the Truth in Love: How to Be an Assertive Christian. St. Louis, MO: Stephen Ministries, 1992.

Mains, Karen Burton. You Are What You Say. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988.

Mayhall, Carole. Words that Hurt, Words that Heal. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1986.

McGee, Robert S. The Search for Significance. 2nd ed. Houston, TX: Rapha, 1990.

Powell, John. Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am? Insights into Personal Growth. Allen, TX: ThomasMore, 1993.

Smalley, Gary, and John T. Trent. The Two Sides of Love. Pomona, CA: Focus on the Family, 1990.

Stowell, Joseph M. The Weight of Your Words: Measuring the Impact of What You Say. Chicago: Moody, 1998.

Wright, H. Norman. Communication @ Work. Ventura, CA: Regal, 2001.[2]


[1] Kruis, J. G. (1994). Quick scripture reference for counseling (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

[2] Hunt, J. (2008). Biblical Counseling Keys on Communication: The Heart of the Matter (1–23). Dallas, TX: Hope For The Heart.

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