Open Up!

Maria Fontaine

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“When I was in my first year of college, I started going out with a real sweet boy. We went many places and had a lot of good times together. He was very sweet and loved the Lord, but he was the silent type–very into himself, shy and untalkative. I liked him very much and I THINK he liked me a lot too! I have to say I THINK he was quite fond of me; I wasn’t really SURE because we never really communicated very much. We hardly ever spoke together about anything other than the time of day or what we were doing or where we were going or about college. We never had any really deep conversations or talked about matters of the heart at all!

“I didn’t realise that this was a problem until finally I began developing rather serious feelings about him! He had gotten to the final year of his studies without getting married or too involved with anybody, and I THINK he was really shy and scared of getting too serious. So he started to cool things off, and this broke my little heart! I then started thinking and praying about what went wrong, and it finally dawned on me that I didn’t really know what HE thought about our relationship, and HE didn’t know what I thought! That’s when I realised that during the entire time we had been together, we hadn’t had any kind of deep heart-to-heart communication at all!

“After we had broken up, I was still wondering why, and I thought, ‘Why didn’t I ASK him? Why didn’t we just honestly TALK about the things we felt and thought?’ If we HAD, it would have been so simple and prevented the whole problem of me not understanding and not knowing his feelings and him not knowing mine! It was just RIDICULOUS to be that close to someone and still know hardly a thing about what they felt and what they thought!

“So, I learned a good lesson! I learned to ASK!–And I learned the importance of honest, open, humble communication. I learned the importance of ASKING when I don’t understand things, and trying to get the OTHER person to be honest and express what he feels and thinks, and that I need to be honest about MY feelings too!”

 
WHY DO SOME PEOPLE KEEP THEMSELVES TO THEMSELVES?

Why is it that my friend found it so difficult to communicate? Why do some people keep a curtain over their mind and heart, so that others cannot even catch a glimpse of their innermost thoughts and feelings? There are a number of different reasons:

Some people are brought up from childhood to believe that it’s a sign of WEAKNESS to show your emotions, or to talk too much about your feelings. They are suffering from the classic British condition of “the stiff upper lip”! Consequently, they have never developed the ability to talk meaningfully with another person. They have never learned how to share openly with someone else and they have difficulty finding the words to say.

Others are fearful of exposing what they feel or think. They do not want to run the risk of being rejected or hurt if someone else disagrees with them.

Others have the attitude that talking won’t do any good, so why bother? They may have tried at some point to get through to another person, and it didn’t work, so they stopped trying altogether.

Some people do not believe that they, as a person, have anything to offer. They do not think that their ideas are worthwhile. They have a low opinion of themselves, and as a result, they withhold their comments and personal feelings.

Hangups and fears such as these keep us at a shallow level of communication. But if we can be freed from these negative and restrictive attitudes, then we can move to deeper, more meaningful levels. There are many different levels of communication between people, ranging from shallow cliches and chit-chat to deep personal honesty and baring of the soul.

 
LEVELS OF COMMUNICATION:

TALKING IN CLICHES is the most common type of communication between people. This type of talk is very safe! We exchange niceties such as, “How are you?”, “How is your family?”, “Where have you been?”, “I like your dress!” etc. In this type of conversation there is no personal sharing. Each person can remain safely hidden behind his screen.

Then there’s the type of conversation in which we simply REPORT FACTS. In this kind of conversation we share gossip and the news of the day, but we don’t commit ourselves as to how we FEEL about them.

“Did you hear about Joy?–She’s pregnant again.”

“Really? That reminds me. I think the cat is about to have her kittens.”

But REAL communication begins when we’re willing to step out of our solitary confinement and risk telling others of our IDEAS AND DECISIONS and how we FEEL about them! If a person is to really SHARE himself with another individual, then he must get to the level of SHARING HIS PERSONAL FEELINGS. Sharing heart-to-heart, and not just superficially, helps draw people closer together, and makes us more honest and humble. All deep relationships, especially marriages, must be based on this kind of openness and honesty in order to succeed and grow.

“I really have something on my mind that I need to talk to you about, John!”

“Sure! Let’s go for a little walk together! I always appreciate these times when we can share heart-to-heart.”

 
HOW TO HELP OTHERS OPEN UP MORE!

Most people who are very quiet and withdrawn don’t really want to be that way. They know they NEED to be freer and they don’t really WANT to stay behind their walls, but they need SOMEBODY to be LOVING and UNDERSTANDING enough to help pull it OUT of them. If you’re INTERESTED in people and you LOVE them, then YOU need to learn how to get them to come OUT of themselves and try to respond and to communicate.–Proverbs 20:5; Isaiah 50:4a.

One way to do this is to gently probe and ask specific QUESTIONS. “Well, what do you mean by that? Could you explain that to me?” And if they were to say, “Well, I’d like to but I don’t want to get involved”, you could ask something like, “Well, WHY don’t you want to get involved?” With most people, if you really probe and question and really press them, then usually they’ll eventually come out of themselves and be more specific because they WANT to. They just NEED HELP!

 
THE “SILENT SUFFERERS”:

There are also the “silent sufferers”!–Those who hold their feelings and emotions in and suffer in silence because they don’t expect that others would want to listen to all their problems and woes! To suffer in silence is, in a way, admirable, that they are able to take it and suffer on their own. But wouldn’t it be better if they would just honestly ASK for HELP and PRAYER? When you’re suffering in silence, it just makes everybody miserable, because they can usually sense that you’re suffering and that something is wrong, and they become worried about you. They don’t know if you’re upset or angry at them or sick or what! Granted, in some cases it is better to BEAR troubles rather than BARE them!–Galatians 6:5. But in MOST cases, it’s much more healthy just to let it all spill out and let others help you!–Galatians 6:2; James 5:16. It prevents a lot of misunderstandings and gets you some PRAYER and SYMPATHY and all the things that you need and would probably like to have when you’re feeling down!–Proverbs 12:25; 27:9.

In fact, lots of times it really helps to talk about the things you’re going through, even if the person you’re talking to DOESN’T have any solution! Often a person will say, “Oh, it just really helped to talk about it, just to get it sorted out in my mind”. Of course, for a Christian, one of the MAIN benefits of sharing your heart with others is that you can ask them to PRAY with you. You can ask for prayer, and that does a LOT of good! “One can chase a thousand, and two can put ten thousand to flight!”–Deuteronomy 32:30.

 
COMMUNICATION WITH GOD:

One thing that is sure to help our communication with others is if we have good communication with GOD. What kind of level do we communicate with JESUS on? Do we strip away all cover-ups and honestly lay our hearts bare before Him? Or are we like the native woman with the bundle of dirty washing? She had taken it to the riverside with the purpose of washing it, but was ashamed to open it for fear someone would see how dirty it was! So she just plunged the whole bundle into the water, joggled it up and down several times, and then took it home.–Wet, but still dirty!

Are we ashamed to bare our hearts before the Lord and others, for fear that they will see what a mess we are? Jesus knows our hearts, He knows our faults and weaknesses and He loves us UNCONDITIONALLY the way we ARE, and not the way WE think we OUGHT to be.–Psalm 139:4. He’s just waiting for us to open our hearts to Him so that He can “forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”–1John 1:9.

As we surrender and open up our lives to JESUS and tell Him everything on our hearts, we will find it easier to open up to OTHERS! When we KNOW that Jesus accepts and loves us in spite of OUR failures and defects, then this helps us to accept and love and have compassion on OTHERS. This then leads to a desire and a willingness to lend them a sympathetic ear and to want to share our hearts with them and give them the same answers that WE have found in JESUS!

So if you have problems and you have something on your heart, get it out in the open! Talk about it with someone you love and trust! You’ll never have any chance of dealing with the matter unless you get it OUT! There would be far fewer misunderstandings in the World if people would just honestly and openly communicate with one another and be more open about themselves! It may be a little difficult at first, but if you work at it, it becomes much easier! The Lord always seems to bless HONESTY and GOOD COMMUNICATION!–And maybe He wants to bless YOU for it too! Why don’t you TRY it and see?

 

 

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Author: Frederick Olson

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.

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