My wife and I have been married for 17 years. We both love the Lord, and we both pray together but that doesn’t mean we always communicate in a way that honors the Lord. Communication is easy when there is agreement, but when disagreement or disappointment comes is when the temptation to communicate in an ungodly way comes. The last time my wife and I had a disagreement that led to ungodly communication, I prayed to God to give me wisdom in how to deal with this continual problem in our home. I would like to share with you what God put on my heart.
Communication rules for Christian homes:
The following rules are not meant to control individuals within a home, but rather put a lid on sin that can permeate throughout a home through poor communication. "As for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord." Joshua 24:15. This means we strive to serve the Lord in every area of our lives including how we communicate.
1. No name calling (e.g., "You are a psycho,” “you’re a jerk,” etc.) If someone is acting in an ungodly way, don't respond by calling them a name; instead, simply ask them, "Do you think God is OK with the way you are talking/acting right now?"
2. No generalizing (e.g., "You always...," "You never...," "Every time...," etc.).
3. No negative assumptions (e.g., "You like to [insert slanderous statement here”]. We operate from a principle of charity. That means we give others in our home the benefit of the doubt and don't assume negative things that are debatable about the other (1 Corinthians 13:7).
4. No attitudes or tones that exude "I can't believe you (you are such a disappointment)." An "I can't believe you!" type response is an understandable response to major mess ups ("I can't believe you gambled the rent money away," "I can't believe you decided to drink and drive,”etc.), but not minor slip ups and irritations (e.g., "I thought you were going to start working out,” “I thought you said you would stop leaving your stuff on the counter,” etc.). The key is tone/demeanor/attitude: One can say, "Hey honey, I thought you were going to work out today” (with a light-hearted curious helpful reminder tone), or "I thought you said you would stop leaving your stuff on the counter” (with a judgmental tone). Again, the key is tone/demeanor/attitude.
5. No impatience or demanding our own way. 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 (NLT) "Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable..."
If someone takes a while (to fix a bad habit, communicate, etc.) we are patient with them. The first description of love is patience, so by not being patient we are not acting in love. One can politely ask if the major point can be succinctly made, but if the other person is not comfortable with "getting right to the point" we show them grace and don't demand our own way. If we don't have time because we have somewhere to go or other things that must be taken care of immediately, we respectfully ask if the discussion can be pushed to a later time (e.g., "Hey honey, is there any way we can continue this later when we have more time?"). If whatever is being discussed is important enough for one person in the home, it should be respected (with thoughtfulness and patience) by the others they want it discussed with. To be dismissive of a discussion that hasn't been satisfactorily discussed (satisfactory=all who are part of the discussion are satisfied) is demanding one's own way.
6. Communication grades:
A is for Awesome, Appreciation (e.g., "I really appreciate that you...," "Thank you...," "I just wanted to let you know you are doing an awesome job...").
B is for Beneficial--not as awesome as A, but it's not indifferent like C, (e.g., "I see what you're saying,” "I know where you are coming from,” etc.)
C is for Clarity (fact based like Spock). This is acceptable (it's not necessarily desired by many personality types but it's a necessary way to communicate clearly on debatable matters where oftentimes the matter of dispute is somewhere in the details. It's important to note that although we may be crying out on the inside for A, when we disagree with others on the outside it looks like we are looking for clarity, and therefore the person who cannot see what is going on inside is not being disrespectful when they respond appropriately to what your outside is demanding. In short, C is what is to be expected when discussing contentious topics and disagreements.
D is for Disrespectful. This is not acceptable. The disrespect can be explicit (e.g., “you are a bad spouse, parent, or person,” "that was a dumb idea,” etc.), implicit (condescending attitudes of "DUH!,” "I can't believe you didn't...,” etc.), or inappropriate sarcasm (e.g., “Nice job!” after a mess up like locking one’s keys in the car). One thing on sarcasm: Sarcasm is an art. There is a fine line between being sarcastic and funny and being sarcastic and rude. If you don’t know where that line is, then you are probably being rude and you should stop trying to use sarcasm to be funny.
F is for Fowl language. Like D, this is never acceptable or justifiable.
While B and A are desirable, C is neutral (not disrespectful), D and F are undesirable. If a family member communicates at a D or F level they are to be called out on it respectfully (“Would God approve of the way you are talking/acting?”). If we feel disrespected it doesn’t justify disrespect in return (“Don’t repay evil for evil.” 1 Peter 3:9). We don't call out someone for communicating at a C level because we thought of a way they could have communicated at a better level (that's just nit-picking). Communication at a C level should only be addressed respectfully if it is becoming a chronic issue (where B and A have become non-existent).
When someone claims the other is being disrespectful:
Not only do we operate from a principle of charity (assuming the best of one another), we also operate from a principle of humility. That means the one being accused of being disrespectful yields to the one complaining they are being disrespected. If the one being accused of being disrespectful doesn't know how they are being disrespectful they can ask the other one how they are being disrespectful. A simple answer of, "your tone" or "when you said such and such it came across disrespectful” would suffice.
When I shared this with my wife and daughter I told them I believe these are good rules, they are godly rules, and we would be wise to follow them. They agreed. I pray these rules can help you and your family honor God with the way you communicate to one another.