Improved communication

Farmville Enterprise ~ August 9, 2017

There is an old parable that goes something like this:

An elderly couple had been married for fifty years. They loved each other deeply. The years had been kind to them and between them there was only one hidden resentment.

For their entire marriage, the man had always given his wife the heel of every bread loaf. Whether it was a sandwich, garlic bread from the store, or bread fresh from the oven, she always got the heel.

“Why can’t I ever have the soft middle of the loaf?,” she would stew to herself. “Why does he always keep the best part for himself?”

After fifty years, one day she couldn’t stand it anymore. As he served her a sandwich made from store-bought bread, there was the heel as the top of her sandwich.

“Why do you always do this?” she cried. “I don’t like the heel. I prefer the soft part! I’ve only eaten the heels all of these years to make you happy. Why can’t you ever take the ends of the loaf to show that you are willing to sacrifice for me?”

“I’ve always given you the heel,” the man replied, “because it’s my favorite part.”

My husband and I once had a similar but much shorter-lived situation with a family in the neighborhood where we resided. We were doing something that we thought was polite regarding a trash bin. Only after several months did we find out that these neighbors believed that we were not only doing something bad but also doing it with complete disregard for them. The exact thing that we perceived as rude was what they wanted us to do with the bin. Of course, once they finally spoke to us about the situation it was easy for us to resolve the issue.

In our community, in our churches and in our homes we will miss out on a lot of positive interactions if we fail to communicate effectively. We should try to avoid assuming what someone else is thinking or their motives behind particular actions. When someone tells a certain minister that so-and-so didn’t speak to her he asks, “Well, did you speak to her?” How often do we misjudge that a person is slighting us or doing something to harm us?

To be better communicators we must become better listeners. “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19-20) We should not let negative feelings fester. The silent treatment does nothing to resolve issues. On the other hand, well-chosen words can bring healing. “A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Proverbs 25:11)

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