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Communicating Effectively, and Compassionately

Today it seems effective and compassionate communication, especially with those who don’t agree with us, is increasingly elusive and in a way has been completely lost. 

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I saw a video the other day of a woman yelling at someone on the street about what he had just said regarding suffering and Christianity. She yelled something along the lines of, “If we’re all going to suffer then what’s the point in being Christian?”  

She was angry, on the defense, and totally closed off. He calmly explained, “Everyone suffers, when you want to get in shape you suffer through your workout. When you want to learn a new skill, you suffer through the training. Yes, everyone suffers, but the Christian suffers with purpose and meaning knowing that there is a light at the end tunnel, there is hope in their suffering.”

The woman was looking down, she seemed flustered and agitated, and her body turned away from his signaling, “I’m not listening to you.”

Watching the video made me uncomfortable, I felt sad for her, and I wished she would let her guard down to listen to a different perspective that even though seems threatening, may just simply be a different perspective.

Today it seems effective and compassionate communication, especially with those who don’t agree with us, is increasingly elusive and in a way has been completely lost.

The best role model I can think of for guidance and example in compassionate communication is Jesus Christ. His teachings, actions, and interactions provide invaluable lessons on how to communicate with wisdom, love, and understanding, even in the face of opposing views and opinions.

By following His example, we have a golden roadmap to bridge divides and foster meaningful dialogue in today's challenging culture clash and crumbling communication landscape.

How did Jesus communicate?

With Love and Empathy

Jesus consistently demonstrated love and empathy in His communication. He genuinely cared for the needs and concerns of others, regardless of their background or beliefs. When confronted with the adulterous woman (John 8:1-11), He responded with compassion, showing us the power of empathy and love even with those who are lost. Jesus gives us encouragement to cultivate empathy with those who disagree with us so that we may have a fruitful dialogue. The reason why empathetic and loving communication works is because the goal isn’t about converting the other person to your side, the goal is to simply share your perspective in a loving way giving the other an opportunity to view it from a different lens.

“And then, when they persevered in questioning him, he stood upright and said to them, Let whoever is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her.” - John 8:7

By Gracefully Listening

I notice so often in conversations with others, that the person I’m speaking with isn’t really listening to me. They’re just waiting for their turn to talk back at me. Jesus was a beautiful example of an active and attentive listener.

He engaged deeply with others, allowing them to express their thoughts and concerns. In the story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10), Jesus listened intently to Zacchaeus' desire for repentance and restoration. In today's polarized world, we often encounter situations where opposing views clash, and our wounds don’t allow us to really listen, leading to ineffective communication and totally tuning out, like the lady in the video. By following Jesus' example of active listening and really hearing what the other is saying, we can create a safe space for fruitful dialogue and understanding.

Speaking Truth with Love

Jesus never shied away from speaking the truth, but He did so with love and gentleness. When He encountered the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:1-42), Jesus addressed her past with compassion and guided her toward a transformative encounter of love and acceptance.

In our interactions with those who don’t align with our same values, we can follow Jesus' example by speaking truth in a manner that fosters understanding and respect.

I once had a difficult conversation with a best friend about abortion. She was hurt and disappointed in my stance on being pro-life. But after sharing with her why I was pro-life, the deceptions behind Planned Parenthood, and that my deep concern was how to funnel more help to the women in need so that they don’t even feel they need an abortion, my friend finally realized we had more in common in our beliefs than she thought.  

Extending Forgiveness and Reconciliation

Jesus' communication was marked by forgiveness and reconciliation. Even nailed to the cross in excruciating pain, He asked God to forgive those who persecuted Him (Luke 23:34). Today, we witness conflicts where forgiveness seems unattainable, and reconciliation appears distant.

Unforgiveness is a portal for the enemy because it cuts you off from grace. By following Jesus' example, we can create an environment conducive to healing and resolution. Forgiving isn’t about forgetting, it’s about letting go of what’s keeping you stuck and resentful. It’s about accessing the freedom to move on.  

But how can we fully forgive when sometimes it feels impossible? I’ll give you a simple formula that has drastically helped me in the past.

  1. Who are the people in your life that you need to forgive? Write their names down.
  2. Then, write down the sentence below and fill in the blanks with their names and what they did that caused you pain: "In the name of Jesus, I forgive ______ for ______."
  3. Next, fill in the following sentence with whatever was taken from you in that pain: "In the name of Jesus, I take back my_____."
  4. Finally, fill in the following sentence with the emotion that imprisoned you because of the unforgiveness you held on to: "In the name of Jesus, I release the emotion of ____."
  5. Do this as many times as you need,  you’ll start to feel a wave of forgiveness and peace come over your body with each release.

Jesus as the Ultimate Communicator

We live in a world filled with divisive communication, culture clashes everywhere we turn, and resentfulness and bitterness festering negative emotions and passive-aggressive behavior.  

Jesus stands as the ultimate role model for effective and compassionate interaction. His love, empathy, listening skills, truth-speaking with love, and forgiveness provide a blueprint for us to follow that never fails.

I’m reminded of my older sister with her 4 and 2-year-olds. Whenever one of them does something to purposefully hurt the other, my sister immediately takes the instigator to the side and sternly tells them to go apologize and kiss the pain away. The other sibling almost immediately stops crying uncontrollably and cheers up with a heart full of happiness and forgiveness.

Suppose we as adults could follow this example that undeniably mimics Jesus’ communication style. We’d be able to break down barriers, bridge divides, and foster understanding and compassion in even the most challenging and divisive situations.

Let’s turn to Jesus as our guide and seek to imitate His example of loving communication, striving to bring His transformative grace into all of our interactions with each other.

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