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3 Symptoms of a Lousy Listener

One major communication barrier (especially within marriage) is being a lousy listener. Tim Witmer, author of The Shepherd Leader at Home, identifies three symptoms that husbands and fathers should look out for in their conversations:

  1. Responding before someone finishes what they’re saying. Doing this shows complete disregard for what someone is trying to tell you. Wait until they express themselves completely before chiming in. “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” (Prov. 18:13) (more…)
September 17, 2012 | Posted in: Family,Marriage,Men, Husbands, Fathers,Speech | Author: Crossway Author @ 8:00 am | 0 Comments »

Christian Leader, Are you Forgetting Something?

Last week, Crossway author Sam Crabtree shared the plenary stage with Thomas Nelson CEO Michael Hyatt at the National Religious Broadcasters Convention. Both speakers addressed the importance of Christian leaders affirming others.

In his book Practicing Affirmation, Crabtree explains in further detail why we should affirm people and how to restore affirmation to relationships that have been lacking it:

Corrections need to be overwhelmed by affirmations.

Offering correction, whether at work or in our personal life, is necessary and often helpful. Crabtree suggests that those corrections must be overwhelmed by affirmations in order to truly be effective. “If we have too much correction, and not enough affirmation, people will stop hearing our corrections; they’ll just tune out,” he explains. A habit of over-correcting and under-affirming also wounds relationships with spouses, children, co-workers, students, etc.

Why should we affirm people?

John Piper writes, “When our mouths are empty of praise for others, it is probably because our hearts are full of love for self.” However, there is a difference between godly affirmation and the kind of affirmation that puffs up. In order to affirm people, we must first learn to affirm God. For what should God be praised? (Ps. 150:2). Crabtree argues that “God is not given the praise he deserves when we ignore or deny the work he is doing in people.”

So why should we affirm others?

  • When we commend God’s image in people, God is glorified, and that’s why we were made—to glorify God.
  • By commending Christlike qualities, and celebrating them when we spot them, affirmation showcases the character of God, giving him honor for the kind of God he is.
  • It earns us the right standing from which to make suggestions. It gains us a hearing.
  • It lifts morale—in the home, the office, church, locker room.
  • It energizes people. It motivates them to action.
  • It makes us easier to live with.
  • It helps us practice looking at others positively.
  • It constructively uses time that could have been wasted on complaining.

How do you restore a pattern of affirmation to a relationship?

At first the other person may not believe you or receive affirmation well from you. That’s because of a deficit. Your checking account [so to speak] is in the hole. Here are some practical suggestions to reverse the trend of an overly corrective relationship:

  1. If he/she has stopped listening to you, quit preaching.
  2. Stop moralizing about listening: “You should be listening to me!” Instead, ask the Holy Spirit to do his job.
  3. Affirm. Stay up nights if you have to, thinking of ways to say what is so commendable in him/her.
  4. Keep up a steady, tender flow of words and gestures that confirm and commend them.
  5. Model. We don’t affirm any particular quality we don’t personally embrace and exemplify in some appreciable measure. If we try to commend punctuality while always running late ourselves, our hypocritical compliments become off-putting.
  6. Love the unchanged person as is. Be a blessing to that person before he/she listens to you.

Things are moving in the right direction when affirmation, not correction, is the pattern. Relationships are healthy when so much affirmation is being spread around that no one is keeping track of either affirmation or correction, because the relationship doesn’t feel predominately demanding, but refreshing. This is not a matter of a raw mathematical ratio, but a perception from the other person’s point of view. This requires us to see things through others’ eyes. Do they see us as affirming?

Content modified from Practicing Affirmation by Sam Crabtree. Sam is a former public school teacher and has served as executive pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis since 1997. He is also lead pastor for life training, serving as the “vision keeper” of the church.

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February 27, 2012 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Church Leadership,Life & Doctrine,Loving Others,Marriage,Marriage & Family,Ministry,Speech,Vocation | Author: Angie Cheatham @ 8:00 am | (2) Comments »

Francis Chan: “Knowledge is essential, but not sufficient.”

Knowledge is essential, but it’s not sufficient. It takes knowledge for me to write this. We need to think. We must know the truth.

But knowledge alone is not sufficient for the Christian life. It’s not enough just to have knowledge. That’s why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:2: “If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” Think hard. But know that it’s not enough. Paul says even if he had all knowledge but didn’t love, he would amount to nothing. In other words, you can be brilliant and worthless.

It would be like a great basketball player who never misses a shot but keeps shooting into the opponent’s basket. He may say, “I was five for five today from the three-point line,” but his teammates would respond, “But you’re killing our team! You’re shooting at the wrong basket!” He answers confidently, “But I did not miss.” That is the kind of attitude that Paul is confronting here. You might be brilliant, but you’re killing our team. You’re not building up the brothers; you’re making them feel dumb and wounding their conscience. You’re not stirring them up to love and good deeds. You just keep making them feel inadequate. By your knowledge, this weaker brother is being destroyed!

Your brilliance is worthless if you’re not building up your brother—and even worse if you’re destroying him with your knowledge. So when you look at people, do you love them? Do you think, Let me use my knowledge to build this person up?

What Christians Say to Each Other

So often when I read statements on blogs (or tweets)—comments that brothers will write to those who are supposed to be fellow brothers—I think, “Where is the love?” It burdens me. I can’t believe some of the things Christians say to each other in person—and maybe especially online (when you don’t have to look them in the face). How is what you’re saying supposed to build that brother—or anyone else who hears it or reads it? Our knowledge should be pressed into the service of love. It should serve to build each other up. That’s what love does. It builds up. It looks to help others, not hurt them.

True Knowledge

It is such a danger to puff yourself up and imagine that you’re a brilliant person. It’s like the school bully who imagines himself as the hero because he is the strongest. He can beat anyone up. But everyone else knows that he’s not a hero but a jerk. If he were a real hero, he would defend the weak. He would be lifting them up, using his strength to care for them and protect them, not to bully them.

In the same way, with biblical and theological “knowledge” come the intellectual bullies who seem to know so much and imagine themselves to be so knowledgeable. But Paul is saying that they may be only imagining that they are knowledgeable, because if they really knew, they would use their knowledge not to weaken others but to strengthen them. Not to tear them down but to build people up. That’s what love does.

A Closing Challenge to Thinkers

Thinkers, let’s not fool ourselves: To “be conformed to the image of [Christ]” is what we were predestined for, right (Rom. 8:29)? We’ve been predestined to walk as Jesus walked. It’s great if we have thought hard about Jesus and wrestled with doctrines such as predestination, but my prayer is that this information becomes true knowledge, and that we actually become like him, and that our knowledge doesn’t make us arrogant so that we gloat about it and show off what we know. My prayer for me, and for you, is that everyone we come in contact with would feel our love for them and be built up. That they would see the fruit of our having said, “How can I lift them up with this knowledge that I have?”

Let’s not fool ourselves and imagine that we know so much. Maybe we don’t know anything at all. Maybe some of us have been using our knowledge to tear our brother down and hurt that brother for whom Christ died. Let’s not be guilty of the Corinthian error.

So I’m asking God even right now as I write these final words that he would give me love for others. Oh, God, let me believe what I’m saying. And I hope that you would think through your words and how you can build others up and think about others as brothers and sisters in Christ—so much so that when unbelievers see it, they will have a glimpse of God.

Modified from Francis Chan’s contribution to Thinking. Loving. Doing.

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September 20, 2011 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Life & Doctrine,Pride and Humility,Sanctification,Speech,The Christian Life,Theology | Author: Lindsay Tully @ 8:59 am | 1 Comment »

Be Intentional With Your Words Today

Author Christin Ditchfield gives readers some constructive and practical ways to be intentional with their words. One way is expressing earnest compliments and heartfelt appreciation:

When was the last time we let the people around us know how much we love them, how much we value them and appreciate what they contribute to our lives and the lives of others? No doubt most of them are well aware of their faults and failings—but how about their strengths, their accomplishments and successes, their unique gifts and talents? We know how much it means to us when we’re feeling discouraged, worn out, and “weary in well-doing” and out of the blue, someone compliments us or thanks us or lets us know our efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. How it lifts our spirits and brightens our day! We need to get in the habit of doing the same for others, taking time—making time—every day.

Think about it: Who are the people in your life—in your family, in your church, in your school or office, in your neighborhood or community—who could use a sincere compliment or an expression of heartfelt appreciation from you?

Learn more about A Way With Words.

July 16, 2010 | Posted in: Books,Loving Others,Speech | Author: Crossway Staff @ 6:57 am | 1 Comment »

Are We Partnering With the Accuser?

are-we-partnering-with-the-accuserIn A Way With Words, Christin Ditchfield identifies ways we can be tempted to use our words to wound:

  • Unsolicited or unbiblical advice
  • Not so constructive criticism
  • The truth not spoken in love
  • Humor that “gets out of hand”
  • Gossip
  • The silent treatment

Another way is to cast up the past (pp 28-29).

According to the dictionary, to cast is to “throw or hurl or fling.” That’s what we do when we cast up the past. We get into an argument, and we throw in people’s faces every mistake they’ve ever made, every sin they’ve ever committed. We remind them over and over of their greatest moral failure, their most humiliating defeat. It’s our way of putting them in their place or pointing out why they can’t expect us to trust them. God says he’s forgiven and forgotten, but we haven’t—and we want to be sure they know it. They might think they have good news, an exciting opportunity, or hope for the future. We think we’re doing them a favor by bursting their bubble and reminding them of how wrong they’ve been before. Believe it or not, there is someone whose official job is to cast up the past, to throw it in everyone’s face: his name is Satan. The Bible calls him “the accuser of our brothers,” because that’s what he does day and night (Rev. 12:10). He works overtime to torment believers with the memory of sins and failures that have long been covered by the blood of Jesus. Do we really want to be his helpers?

Learn more about A Way With Words.

July 15, 2010 | Posted in: AAA - BLOG UPDATE,Books,Life & Doctrine,Sanctification,Speech,The Christian Life | Author: Crossway Staff @ 8:26 am | 0 Comments »