A Matter of Life and Death

A Matter of Life and Death




Proverbs 18:20-21
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”


Have you ever noticed that even in routine communication there are gaps? 

One example of this is asking someone how warm it will be today and getting the answer back that it’s going to be rainy all day. 

Well, the reply did not answer the question.

Each day we have dozens of these communication bugs.

Both parties think clear communication was happening but it was not.

Now add to this the reality that both the speaker and listener are fallen beings and it opens the door to being defensive, critical or contemptuous. 

Share a recent story of a simple breakdown in communication that you have experienced recently. Did you close the gap? Did the gap get bigger?


  • Think of a time when you thought you said something little and yet you hurt someone deeply or a time when you were hurt deeply. How long did the hurt from the words last?Some of our groups have newly formed this fall so if trust has not been developed, share at the level you are comfortable sharing.Go on a mission to close some gaps and ask a few people if you have said anything to them that has hurt them.
  • Find three people that know you the best and ask them these questions:How do you experience me during conflict?How can I communicate with you better?Group leaders: If you are leading a couples group consider asking them if they have discussed this question from the sermon. If they have not then consider taking some time during the group to do so.

    If your group is not a couples group and they have not asked for feedback since the sermon, urge them to do so and make some time at your next group meeting to review with them.

    Also, ask them how they are doing reflecting on the feedback they received versus being defensive about it.

    Remember, without self reflection we are impotent in our faith!

  • Grab some time alone to ask God to help you reflect on what causes you to relate in one of these 4 negative styles(see notes section below).Think about what you may be afraid of.Also, reflect on areas of wounds you have experienced in relationships(past or current relationships).An ungrieved wound is an unhealed wound. Jesus promises to “bind up” our wounds.

    Share your reflections with the group.


To build a home that has an environment of love and relational safety takes work.

The words out of our mouth will lead toward life or toward death.

To think about improving our relationships we have to start with the area of communication. 

It is shocking how often the Scriptures talk about the words we speak. 

James gives us a vivid word picture in chapter 3:5-6. “The tongue is… setting on fire the entire course of life…”.

The tongue sets fires in the more obvious ways such as gossip or raging words but there are also little interactions daily. 

These little interactions are often the real problem. 

Why? Because we do it over and over and it usually goes unchallenged. 

These little interactions have the power to start a fire.

So, slow down and take a look at the words you speak.

3 parts to communication: mind, tongue, and heart.

The mind: Romans 12:1,2 tells us to be transformed by the renewing of the mind. To renew our mind we actively pursue viewing the world the way Christ does.

The heart is the place of our feelings and this is the part that contains our wounds. 

The wounds in the heart begin to tell us something about the world and how we should respond. 

When we are hurt the heart recoils. Yet, the truth of God tells us not to let our hurt stop us from responding in a redemptive way.

By our words we can see whether we are living out of the wounds of our heart or living out the truth.

3 parts to our communicating: words, tone, body language. The actual words we speak are only 11% of the meaning. The other 89% is body language and the tone of voice.

So, we can’t say, “I only said “such and such” so what’s the big deal?” This ignores the body language and the tone of our words.

The 4 horseman by Dr. Gottman describes the unhealthy patterns of relating. 

Dr. Gottman has studied communication for 50 years. 


These 4 horsemen are the 4 worst styles of communication. 

It takes more than mere mechanics to change these 4 styles, it takes heart change.

Defensiveness: I either put it back on the person or deflect it. 

Defensiveness is like using a tennis racket to return every ball that comes your way. 

Defensiveness eliminates the time to reflect.

One way we can be defensive is to explain why we did what we did or we defend by attacking the way someone said something to us. 

The wounded heart is afraid so there is a strong pull to protect through defensiveness.

Defensiveness causes the other person to feel unheard. 

Many times the other person will take a step back relationally. 


Without self reflection we are impotent in our faith!

One helpful idea to reduce defensiveness is to make room to listen without response. 

Criticalness: this style of communicating can be described as coming at people with a magnifying glass. We inspect them. If I look at your shortcomings I don’t have to look at my heart. 

This is a position of being on the offensive.

One idea to reduce criticalness is to use “I statements”.

Another idea is to plan to say good things with no strings attached.

Stonewalling: we shut down. At times when we shut down we send out angry signals as well. 

We can also stonewall by being busy. The message is clear: I am not available for you. 

An idea to reduce stonewalling is to communicate the need to take a break. 

Use the break time to calm down and then return later to resolve the conflict. 

A very helpful passage to reflect on while taking this break is James 4:1-10. 

Contempt: this is when I get a stool and step up onto it. I elevate myself to diminish you.

I look down on you. 

Who you are is all wrong. 

Contempt masters the use of tone: sarcasm and teasing are its trademarks.

A joke of contempt is like a jelly filled donut that has a piece of glass in the jelly. 

A big sigh can be contempt.

Why is this so hard to stop? Mainly because there is fear within. 

I will dismantle your humanity so I can be safe.

One way to reduce contempt is to resolve to recognize all humanity. 

The biblical solution to these patterns includes reflect, repent, and to restore.

If we do not reflect we are not desiring our love to grow. 

I John 1:8-10 Speaks of an awareness of our sin through reflection that leads us to confess our sin. 

Repentance: II Chronicles 7:14 “If my people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways,…”

Restoration: II Corinthians 5:17-19 speaks of the ministry of reconciliation.

As you begin to change don’t expect results quickly in your relationships.