How You Talk Matters

While I had little to say about valentining Monday, I do have something to say about relationships.  In a relationship, how you talk and how you listen matters.  That’s a basic opening for a blog post, I know.  It’s basic, even almost boring.  It’s simple, though, in the words of a wise woman I met, it’s not always easy

If you speak with care, it alters the listener’s ears in a way that opens their hearts to you.  If you speak with irritation or impatience, that, too, alters the listener.  It doesn’t matter if you’re listening in a meeting or talking in an interview.  If you’re sipping coffee or tea with a friend.  If you’re hearing about your spouse’s day.  If you’re asking your children about school. 

When you communicate with care, people notice.  They may not mention it, but deep down their spirit is refreshed in your act of extending a kind word or enough love to listen.  I don’t do this naturally.  I’ve worked on this skill for years, putting myself in a situation requiring me to pay attention or listen or talk with care.  Sometimes I hate it.  Other times, it’s the most human thing I do.  Then, there are those moments, those conversations where “really good listening” is done to me or done for me.  I’m looking forward to one of those conversations next week, my monthly spiritual direction appointment. 

I don’t know that I’ve mentioned spiritual direction on this blog.  It’s kinda like counseling.  Kinda.  It’s a classical spiritual discipline, an old practice in religious traditions where a trained “director” guides, talks with, listens with, and directs another person.  In some sense, spiritual directors are like pastors and they are also like counselors.  Pastors provide spiritual direction to people in our churches, even when we don’t necessarily know it.  And counselors provide the same as the work of counseling and direction often converge.  In direction, though, the context is larger.  The relationship is not attempting to work on a problem or an illness or a life development, as much as it’s working on something about God.  There is both nothing to be done in spiritual direction and very much to be done.  You can’t fix God, but you can learn to live in response to God, learn to be aware of God, and learn to be aware of your feelings about God and other things.

You don’t have to have an appointment with a spiritual director or with a pastor to feel heard.  You can be heard by a good friend or a stranger.  You can listen and talk with care regardless of your relationship to a person. 

So in the general spirit of valenting–along with my post the other day, to which someone asked me “What did Dawn say about your post?” and I said, “Dawn could have written the post for me”–Talk well, friends.  Listen closely.  It’ll make your relationship blossom.  It matters.

More on Marriage: Interview with Johnathan & Toni Alvarado, authors of Let’s Stay Together

In my last post, I reflected upon my role as pastor in relation to marriage and divorce.  In some ways, I’m continuing that reflection with what I offer you in this post.

I read Let’s Stay Together this year.  It’s by two of my mentors, Bishop Johnathan Alvarado and his wife and colleague, Dr. Toni Alvarado.  I asked them a few questions about their book, which I commend to you if you’re interested in marriage, interested in getting married, or serious about strengthening yourself in relation to a long-term committed relationship.  As I’ve told them, I am thankful for their willingness to teach others about marriage, to mentor me and my wife in our marriage, as well as their hard work in living what they say.  I’m realistic but I hold them to a high bar, which they, by grace, reach gracefully.

1)      What motivated you to write Let’s Stay Together?

We have been concerned with the rising divorce rate within the body of Christ.  We noticed that divorces were not remanded to the ranks of the laity exclusively but even amongst the clergy and leaders within the body of Christ divorce seems to be recurring and even acceptable.  Let’s Stay Together is an attempt to stop the hemorrhage and provide strategies and solutions for longevity and success in marriage. Further, we carry a burden to prepare singles who are desirous of marriage for healthy and productive relationships.

 2)      Your commitment to marriage shines in this book.  At the same time, you counsel couples and you see the hardships people face when trying to live out their marital vows in our society.  How do you maintain your conviction that “divorce was not an option” when that option is so accessible?

We maintain that conviction because we believe that the biblical mandate for marriage carries with it the ability to fulfill its requisites.  Second, we understand that strong marriages are the building blocks for a society.  Not only do we purport that it is a Christian mandate but also it is a necessary institution for the continuance of any civil society.  Finally, the divorced persons with whom we have spoken and/or counseled have consistently confirmed our suspicions that divorce is not all that it’s cracked up to be!  There are those who after having read our book have testified that if they had only known to apply some of the skills that we enumerate, they would have never divorced in the first place. 

 3)      In what ways can a couple mature their beliefs about the long-term covenant of marriage before getting married?

We are strong advocates for pre-marital counseling.  In our contemporary culture, people do more to get a “drivers license” than they do to get a “marriage license.”  In our premarital counseling, not only do couples learn skills that give them the opportunity to have a good marriage but they also get first hand exposure to what a healthy marriage could look like.  The combination of information and impartation gives premarital couples a foundation for marital success.

 4)      You are leaders.  Are their any specific ways leaders are vulnerable to marital failure?

Yes.  Public leaders are particularly vulnerable to marital failure precisely because of the public nature of the lives that they lead.  The pressure of genuinely trying to be a healthy example to others adds a dimension to the marital relationship that must be managed with skill and prudence.  Most couples do not divorce because of a lack of love, but rather they divorce because they lack the skills necessary to stay married, especially while living in the public eye.  We address this in the chapter of the book entitled: “Mega business, career, and ministry requires a mega-marriage.”

5)      One reason I wanted to interview you was to ask you this question.  How have divorces by significant leaders (e.g., Al and Tipper Gore) and celebrity figures in our country informed and challenged how readers hear your relationship strategies?  Does the ease with which many people approach marital dissolution, or not being married for that matter, change how you engage with couples who desire healthy marriages?

We live in an age where the media no longer reflects the common life of the people but rather it frames and crafts the lives that we live.  The media moguls are both predictive and determinative as to how we will live.  Because of this, public figures have more influence on public life than they realize.  When public figures and “leaders” within our society dismiss their marriages without so much as a tear it tacitly gives others the permission or even the encouragement to do the same.  It does change the way in which we have to counsel and instruct intended couples and married couples.  We have to teach them to be counter-cultural if they are going to be successful in their marriages.  

 6)      This is a book about marriage, but a lot of people aren’t married.  And might not get married.  Is there something in this book for them, and if so, what might they find?

While this book is specifically couched in the context of marriage, it is principally a book of relationship strategies.  In the book, we teach strategies that can be beneficial to any relationship.  In any relationship two people have to be able to communicate effectively so we teach principles of good communication.  In every relationship some conflict will arise therefore we teach principles of negotiation for positive resolution.  We believe that this book has something for everyone, not just married couples.  As a matter of fact, our singles are purchasing and enjoying reading the book at least as much as our married and intended couples!

 7)      What are one or two things you want readers to takeaway from Let’s Stay Together?

Here they are: 

  • We want our readers to take away the passion that we have for being married.  We endeavor, through our candid examples and transparent anecdotes to be as forthcoming and genuine as possible while simultaneously painting a realistic picture of the work involved in having a good marriage.  We believe that marriage is viable, beneficial, and worth the effort it takes to enjoy life together. 

 

  • For our readers who may be unmarried, we desire to inspire, encourage, and to demonstrate to them that in spite of all of the negativity that is so aggrandized, marriage still works.  The skills that we teach will enhance their lives and every relationship that they may have. 

 

  • Finally, we want every reader to take away the knowledge and tools to build a strong, vibrant, and successful marriage.  It is our hope that everyone who reads this work will discover the blessings of life together, just as we have. 

8)     How can readers of this blog learn about your book and the other dozen things you do?

The book can be purcashed on our website.  Of course they can find us on our blog and at the following links:
www.totalgrace.org
www.mskfoundation.org
www.beulah.org