I offer you a little reading music:
This may sound like a no-brainer, and it kinda is, but still it needs to be said. It goes something like this:
1) Life is made up of relationships. Everything important boils down to some sort of relationship. we have relationships in and through our work, our free-time, our families, our enemies, our organizations and communities (i.e. churches, neighborhoods, sports, etc...). Everything boils down to relationships of differing degrees. (Even lack of a relationship is a relationship category... a "non-relationship").
2) The key to any relationship is COMMUNICATION!!! Without communication relationships become dysfunctional and become something like a non-relationship, or just the facade of a relationship.
3) Therefore the key to life is COMMUNICATION!
Why bring this up? I see a lot of dysfunction on a daily basis! I've come to realize that a key concept to this dysfunction is the lack of healthy relationships caused by the lack of communication, or dysfunctional communication. Let's look at examples. I think that many divorces are caused by lack of communication! At least a lack of healthy communication. I was thinking back on past relationships I had in dating and realized how I was always blindsided when a girl dumped me. When given the reasons, I always wondered how I had missed the issues, and the problem always boiled down to a failure (usually on both people's part) to communicate. The issues could not be addressed properly because of deception, pushing down the issues, and not being open and honest.
Communication is key to a relationship...that was the most important lesson I learned in premarital counseling. Everything is communication. Choosing to do or not do something is communication. A touch, hug, or kiss is communication. Sex is all about communication!!!!!
So with that wisdom in hand, I think about other relationships in our lives. Having been a youth minister (and a youth), as well as an Assoc. Pastor... it amazes me how dysfunctional communication has become in families. Parents don't talk with their kids, and/or hold back, misrepresent, or outright lie when they talk. This is dysfunctional communication. I am always surprised that many times I would know more about a child as their youth minister than the parent would know about their on child! I only saw the youth 2-3 times a week, but the parents should get to see their kids every day! What's the difference? Communication! And communication is done as much verbally as it is non-verbally. True communication usually involves as much (if not more) listening than talking. More on that in a sec.
I look at people who are unhappy in their job. I ask, what are they communicating? Does their "front" they put on say they are happy when they aren't? Have they tried to communicate with their bosses and fellow coworkers?
I look at many churches who are hurting right now. Most of the time, the church is one of the worst models of communication... and the church is supposed to help model and lead people towards leading a healthy life! Interesting. Yet many churches suffer from power struggles, subversive politics, and non-genuine communication. This usually ends with an unhealthy church where eventually people end up getting hurt. That's a lot of what happened to me.
I will use my own story as an example. There were a lot of areas where people would not, or did not want to openly and honestly communicate. I did, and it got me fired. But that's ok, it takes both parties to openly and honestly communicate for a healthy relationship to be produced. I got to walk away knowing that I had not been subversive or deceiving in my part of the relationship, which to be honest, is the only part of a relationship that you can realistically be responsible for.
However, communication was the MAIN issue there. We see the guy who was classic passive-aggressive... this comes from a lot of dysfunctional relationships, and how he tried to form a dysfunctional relationship with me through my public lynching. We have parents who were afraid that I was setting a bad example for the youth by having a friend that was gay (regardless of my own personal opinions or beliefs on the matter). They did not confront me about it, but went around me forcing their will on the administration. More dysfunctional relationships. The administration folded and thus did not have healthy communication by confronting the issues, and allowing me to know about the whole thing (little less speak on my own behalf). Then you have the announcement: telling the church that I had mysteriously left (both been fired and resigned in 2 sentences) and then saying that it was taboo to talk about the subject...."move on". Very dysfunctional communication/relationship skills there!!!! And thus the church is saved from having to face and COMMUNICATE about tough issues in the real world like the issue of Homosexuality in their church/beliefs.
That's only a partial example, but I see it all the time. Where did we lose the ability to openly and honestly communicate with one another? I see this all the time on the blogosphere (I admit I'm guilty). Communication is infrequent because people can't get past their differing ideas and theologies. I try to have true conversations in the blogging world, but have been labeled and called names, and degraded. I wonder...did we lose the ability to communicate or did we never learn how. Why can't we find healthy ways of communication?
And that's what it boils down to. The key to a healthy life: OPEN and HONEST communication, done with RESPECT and in a TIMELY, PERSISTENT MANNER! Communication should always be happening. Things don't need to be stored up and allowed to fester. Conversations need to be INCLUSIVE and not done behind the involved parties back. Honesty is a key. Sometimes being honest hurts, but it is necessary for a productive and healthy relationship! The trick is that there are fair and unfair tactics that can be used when communicating honestly! Honesty SHOULD NEVER be used as a weapon, but be respected for the weight it can sometimes carry.
I think about the days my wife and I have long conversations about our lives and our relationship. Sometimes these conversations are hard. We get defensive by nature. But we made a promise almost 5 years ago to always communicate and to be open and honest. Because of this, we have had very few fights! I can still count the number of fights STILL on one hand! Growing up with parents who fought a lot, this still amazes me. But I see the reason. Timely, open and honest communication. Communication that speaks, but truly listens and thinks about what the other person is saying. EMPATHY, and UNDERSTANDING are keys to relationships...this goes a step far beyond tolerance to acceptance! That is the only way communication remains healthy and relationships work out positively. ACCEPTANCE doesn't mean that the other person is always right....but acknowledging their position and accepting it and respecting it as their own.
Communication is the key to life. So why are we so bad at it?
In the words of John Mayer: "say what you need to say". But do it in a healthy way!!!!