How Directness Helps Relationships

The bible tells we should…

“…instruct one another …” Romans 15:14

“…teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom” Colossians 3:16

It is interesting that the meaning behind the words “instruct” and “admonish” are the same: that is “to caution, reprove or warn gently.” The values of love, responsibility and respect call us to address one another directly, kindly and fairly.

Directness involves speaking to a person, not about a person. Gossip is speaking about a person and not to a person. If gossip persists in the life of the church it will embed the dysfunctional habit of triangulation, which is extremely painful to break.

Here are four observations why a person would talk about a person rather than to a person.

  • Fear: Not sure how the person will respond or that we are overreacting.
  • Insecurity: Lack of confidence emotionally or in the situation.
  • Uncomfortable: No one likes these situations; if they do they need therapy.
  • Help or advice: Genuinely seeking confidential counsel before approaching the person.

Speaking directly to people finds its roots in the Law of Moses, “You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD. You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him.” (Leviticus 19:16-17).

Jesus builds on this principle in teaching, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. (Matthew 18:15)

When we reason frankly and speak gently with those in our lives we do so according to the following guidelines:

  1. Make sure the offense is an offense: We have experienced an offense or injury, or have been the object of sinful behavior, not just an innocent mistake.
  2. We go to them: The offended is the one responsible for initiating with the offender.
  3. We express our own concerns: We need to speak only for ourselves. Phrases such as: “Many feel that…”, “A lot of people think…”, or “Some have told me…” should not be used.
  4. We do it face to face: This is to protect the person and ourselves in case it is only a misunderstanding or they readily repent of the offense. We only bring in another person if they are unwilling or unresponsive to our first encounter. Do not do it via email or text.
  5. We do it believing they will listen: Going in to the conversation believing for the best outcome is the first step of reconciliation.
  6. We do it hoping that the relationship will go to a deeper level: Helping people become aware of their behavior and assisting them to embrace how it affects those around them can have a profound positive impact on our relationship.

Directness does not justify recklessness. The Apostle Paul warns us, “But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another” (Galatians 5:15). Directness involves choosing our words appropriately. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Proverbs 25:11).

Directness is critical to healthy worship and healthy relationships (Matthew 5:23-24).

The following questions are designed to help you guard yourself, each other and the church corporately. The Apostle Paul calls the church leaders to, “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock” (Acts 20:28).

Reflective Questions for Individuals:

  • What are some of the fears I wrestle with in regards to directness?
  • Have I fully grasped my part of the problem in the relationship?
  • In what case would I not go directly to a person with a concern?
  • Have I ever been a victim of triangulation?
  • Do I know how to ask for forgiveness correctly?

Reflective Questions for Small Groups or Teams

  • What types of speech or humor could be deemed as reckless?
  • How do we protect our group or team from the sin of gossip?
  • How do we handle reckless speech in our group or team?
  • How do we promote this principle of directness in and through our group?
  • How is confidentiality protected in our group or team?

For more information on building health relationships download Gary’s free ebook: Ten Biblical Principles for Healthy Relating


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