If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise. Proverbs 15:31(New Living)
Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose. Proverbs 18:21 (The Message)
It’s been said that you can measure the health of a relationship by measuring the number of undiscussables. Our relational limits are determined by what remains off-limits in our conversations. We tiptoe around the tension, ignoring the rotten smell in the air and hoping not to step on any eggshells. We throw out eggshells all around us in an effort to keep people at bay. With every eggshell we toss, we are attempting to protect our image, our heart and sometimes our pride.
Eggshells are the things we lay down that keep people from telling us what we need to hear. One of the biggest tragedies is how isolated and lonely our eggshells leave us. They harm every facet of our lives, including the way we interact (or avoid) our family. When we live our lives walking on eggshells, we are unable to reach our full potential and become the people God wants us to become.
The author of James speaks about the power the tongue holds. All throughout Proverbs, King Solomon advises his readers to pay attention to the words that come out of their mouths. Both writers understood that our words have the power of life and death. They have the ability to build-up and tear-down. They can cripple as well as breathe life and confidence into another individual. A well-spoken word is one of the best things we can have in this world.
Unfortunately, we fail to leverage our words when we avoid conflict. We often see conflict as a negative. If tension exists in our relationship, we view that relationship in a poor light. Each one of us has a default response towards conflict. We avoid it in hopes that if we pretend it doesn’t exist, the problem will go away. Others of us drop hints anticipating the other party will eventually open their eyes to their shortcomings. Then there are those of us who wait out the conflict to see who will go first. If that doesn’t work, we wage war on the conflict by being passive-aggressive. And, if all else fails, we simply explode.
The moment conflict arises we go into fight or flight mode. We stop thinking and start reacting. On top of these responses, we begin to craft a story about the person on the other side. Since our brains are hard-wired for stories, we paint a picture in order to fill loops. This is the only way we can justify our anger, our hurt, our pain and our frustration. The more we personalize and make ourselves the victim in our story, the more likely we aren’t seeing the whole picture. There are more sides to every story than just two. We have our side, the other person’s side and then the truth. This is why we must assault our own story to see where we are off base.
Conflict is an opportunity. We might not see it as such, but it is. This is why we must learn how to communicate in the context of community. If we find ourselves stuck it means there is a crucial conversation that needs to take place. To love someone is to enter into a relationship by speaking the truth in love. We are moving the eggshells to the side and making a clear path for connection.
Yes, when crucial conversations exist it does mean there are strong opinions, high emotions, and high stakes. But, what is at stake is our personal growth and the growth of our relationships. We can tell a lot about ourselves by the way we are able to receive correction and rebuke. If we want to be wise, it begins by making ourselves available and developing a listening ear. When you find yourself in a relationship where anything can be said, you have found yourself in a healthy place.
- Eggshells are what we use to keep people from telling us what we really need to hear. What eggshells do you tend to throw out to keep people at bay? When it comes to your family, how are you walking on eggshells?
- What conversation are you not having or not having well? How is it causing you to feel stuck?
God, when I look around myself, all I see are eggshells. I use them as relational landmines to prevent people from coming close and speaking into my life. Today, may I pick up these eggshells and stop pretending like they don’t exist. Let me be open to hearing words that might sting at first. Give me the courage to be transparent and vulnerable to others and You as well. In Your name, Jesus. Amen.