Last week we began our annual vision series at Kfirst. And for every series, we have a sermon “bumper video.” It’s a very short video that brings the focus of the service to the message that is about to be preached. Usually, I see the video before it’s launched. But last Sunday, I was seeing it for the first time along with the rest of the congregation.
Just in case you want to see the video:
My first response was tears. The sight of people serving, laughing, worshiping, and engaging in ministry was humbling. It touched my soul.
Then I fixated on something else: My face.
It seems that, in the pictures of me baptizing, I’m looking “angry” or “intense.” And, obviously, the moment was everything but what my face was communicating. It was a time of rejoicing and celebration; it was a day that brought both smiles and happy tears. But, from a simple glimpse, you might not get where my heart truly was.
And it’s here that I’ve begun to remember so many conversations with couples who struggle, not with verbalizing words, but with the factors that surround communication. Simply said: Just because you are good at talking doesn’t mean you are an effective communicator. On the flip-side, just because you heard the words that were said, doesn’t mean your spouse feels like you listened. If you don’t understand your marital “gait,” then you run a danger of misrepresenting what your intentions are in how you speak (and listen). Your gait can literally reshape and restructure your verbal communication.
Simply defined, a “gait” is a person’s manner of walking. And every person has a “personal gait” that is seen way they step, hold themselves, posture their back, and position their feet. Sometimes you can tell how someone’s day is going by their gait. If their head and shoulders are slumped, they may be having a “down day.” Perhaps you see someone walking briskly with a smile may project that they’re motivated to tackle the day’s activities. Your “gait” says a lot about you.
Some of you have never realized what a “gait” was, let alone, had one. We all do. But let me take this a bit deeper: The way you carry yourself (your gait) sets the atmosphere for words you speak. It can be the thermostat for your communication (or lack thereof). Just by your demeanor, you can set the temperature of what a conversation will look like and/or be received. This can happen at work, in church, and yes, especially in your home. Most of us are aware of the words that come out of our mouths, but unaware that your “gait” may be changing everything you are trying to say.
For example, over the past 18 years, both Anne and I have said to each other variations of:
- “Do you even hear yourself?” (Tone is mis-communicating my heart.)
- “Have you looked at yourself in the mirror when you say that?” (My face says something different from my words.)
- “I don’t think YOU understand HOW you just came off to…” (Speaking of the technique of my approach communicated the opposite of what our words were saying.)
We’ve all been there (some of us are still here). Why? The longer you are married, the more comfortable you get with your spouse (which is a good thing). But with the passing of time we do run the danger of taking our gait for granted in our marriage. We assume our spouse knows what we’re trying to say and we get lazy with our communication.
“I know that’s what I said, but you should know what I meant.”
So the question comes: how do you work though marital “gait” issues?
Stop the selfish argument. I’m so tired of hearing “this is just who I am” or “this is how God created me.” I’m sorry…that’s crap.
It’s just another way of saying, “I refuse to grow and/or allow the Holy Spirit to change me that may be healthier for me, my spouse, and my family.” It’s a pride statement from a refusal to face the fact that, first, something you may be doing is incorrect and, second, you may need to adjust something in your life that you’ve never addressed.
You don’t always hear your tones. Some mannerisms can come out of nowhere and confuse your listeners. Stop arguing for the way you’ve been acting and be humble enough to admit you may not have it all figured out like you think? If an antibody is what the immune system uses to identify and neutralize bacteria and viruses that threaten us, then humility is the “antibody” that we use to address and neutralize the pride that threatens our marriage. Lord, teach us to be “humble in doing right,” teaching us your way (Psalm 25:9).
Be humble enough to ask for help? What better way to hear about your gait than from someone who isn’t you. Because the truth is: We are not always aware of ourselves. And who better than a trusted source that loves you enough to say what needs to be said. I love Proverbs 27:6 which says, “Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” If you trust your spouse and know his/her motives, then allow them to speak into this area. Communication is relational currency. And if you can maximize the use your words with your gait, then you not just spend the “relational currency” well, but you’ll put to death things like misunderstanding, assumption, and doubt.
Shape your gait. What I’ve discovered is the change I need is not always the change I want. Shaping your gait is as simple as making necessary adjustments while welcoming outside accountability. And I’ve learned to do this inside my home as well as outside of my home.
I’m thankful for a staff who helps me. I may be their boss, but they are my sounding board. And if I can be a more effective communicator, I have give people a greater image of the “Christ in me” instead of the “David in me.” This was the apostle Paul’s concern for the church in Colossia (Colossians 1:27) and it’s a huge challenge for all of us. It’s more important for people to see Christ than it is to do what is easy (remain the same). Change is necessary for growth and, most of the time, change is located out of my comfort zone.
I love you all. I pray that you would develop some “gait awareness” that may be adjusting your communication far beyond you realize.
Thanks for letting me ramble…