What is the Fruit of Emotional Intelligence?

Photo by travis bradberry

Photo by travis bradberry

In the tree to your right, you will see the fruit of emotional intelligence (EQ). If you reflect on your current work environment, you will immediately see why these are so important! They are also incredibly important for all of your relationships.

In his book Emotional Intelligence, Dan Goleman talks about self-control and empathy. If we are going to evidence the types of attitudes and behaviors that we see in the diagram, we have to understand just what it is we need to focus on as we seek to grow in EQ. Goleman says:

For one, impulse is the medium of emotion; the seed of all impulse is a feeling bursting to express itself in action. Those who are at the mercy of impulse—who lack self-control—suffer a moral deficiency: The ability to control impulse is the base of will and character. By the same token, the root of altruism lies in empathy, the ability to read emotions in others; lacking a sense of another’s need or despair, there is no caring. And if there are any two moral stances that our times call for, they are precisely these, self-restraint and compassion.

So you can see how very important EQ is. Understanding our emotions and expressing them appropriately is no simple matter. In addition, empathy is at the core of creating safety in our relationships. It is that impulse of emotion that we need to understand in order to grow. That is no small challenge because the time between emotion, impulse and action is a fraction of a second! Often, we are reacting to people and situations based upon perceptions that may or may not be accurate.

Roger Birkman, who developed the Birkman Method assessment, understands that EQ is challenging to grow in because most of us live life based upon our own perceptions of ourselves and others that can often be wrong. He says this,

Individuals naturally have selective perceptions about the way they see themselves and others…We each tend to approach tasks with our own bias ‐ the window through which we see the world. When we perform our assigned jobs, naturally we see things our way and tend to find other groupsʹ ideas different and strange – even wrong or threatening. Because we view the world through our own filters, often we base our beliefs and subsequent actions on wrong perceptions. These understandable but inaccurate expectations can lead us to behave in ways that cause problems for ourselves and for other people.

Below are some of those perceptions that bias our judgement:

  • I'm normal, it's other people who have a problem.

  • Most people feel the way I do.

  • The best way to do something is my way.

  • The way someone acts is the way they want to be treated by others.

  • There is an ideal personality style------mine!

Given these biases, you can see why we often fail to slow down. When we don’t, we either run over others or miss them altogether. Slowing down enables us to push against our natural inclination to view the world through our narrow perspective and consider our limitations and the perceptions of others.

Scripture is replete with encouragement to slow down and not get hijacked in the moment. In Ephesians 5:15, Paul says, “Pay attention to how you live, not as unwise but as wise.” Additionally, throughout the New Testament, Jesus uses the word, Behold, over and over to get our attention.

In our next blog, we will look at the 12 competencies that EQ has found that can enable us to slow down. If we combine these skills with a secure relationship with God through his self-giving love and grace, we have the potential to see significant change in ourselves and in our relationships and become more proficient at the skills listed on the tree above.

Copyright © 2018 Timothy S. Lane

1 Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.

Four Things to Help Overcome Gridlock in Your Marriage

Have you ever found yourself in a place in your marriage where you and your spouse disagree and it seems like there is no way forward? At some point, in any marriage, this is a possibility. It happens when you can’t learn to live with your perpetual problems. According to John Gottman every couple has two kinds of problems; perpetual (70%) and solvable (30%). How a couple handles the perpetual problems is critical to avoiding gridlock.

Here are some possible issues that can be the source of gridlock:

  • She wants another child, he doesn’t
  • He wants to adopt, she doesn’t
  • She wants to attend this church, he wants to attend another
  • He wants to go out and enjoy friends, she would rather stay at home
  • She doesn’t mind clutter, he can’t stand the site of dust
  • He wants a dog, she wants a cat
  • She wants him to lead family devotions, he wants her to
  • He wants a mini-SUV, she wants a mini-van
  • She wants to decorate the house, he wants to increase their giving to charity
  • He hates being late, she doesn’t mind being late

If you take a good look at the various types of issues that can lead to gridlock, you will notice that it can be anything! It can be something as significant as having children or a spiritual conviction to something as minor as how clean and orderly you prefer your house to be. Gottman says this:

Whether they seem important or petty to outsiders, all gridlocked disagreements share four characteristics. You’ll know you’ve reached gridlock if:
1. You’ve had the same argument again and again with no resolution.
2. Neither of you can address the issue with humor, empathy, or affection.
3. The issue is becoming increasingly polarizing as time goes on.
4. Compromise seems impossible because it would mean selling out–giving up something important and core to your beliefs, values, or sense of self.

Does that sound familiar? Do you and your spouse or another couple you know describe an issue in their marriage in this way? If so, what can you do? Here are four things, according to John Gottman:

1. Become a Dream Detective

According to Gottman, gridlock reveals that there are core values and beliefs underneath gridlock. So while the issue may look simple on the surface, there is much more going on underneath.

To navigate your way out of gridlock, you have to first understand that no matter how seemingly insignificant the issue, gridlock is a sign that you each have dreams for your life that the other isn’t aware of, hasn’t acknowledged, or doesn’t respect. By dreams I mean the hopes, aspirations, and wishes that are part of your identity and give purpose and meaning to your life (p.238).

In order to avoid gridlock, you must become aware of the dreams that are underneath the conflict, begin to respect your spouse’s dreams and learn to incorporate their dreams into the relationship. When you have reached an impasse, there is a loss of respect, fondness and admiration. You must reclaim that. The way you do that is by asking your spouse what the area of gridlock means to them. What dream is it attached to?

As you listen, you may begin to see the deeper logic and start to reconnect with your spouse. This may seem simplistic, but it isn’t. It is never simplistic to make attempts to understand your spouse and listen to them as they share their deeper dreams and aspirations.

2. Remain Calm

Discussing issues that involve gridlock can be very emotional because it has become a source of tension that has remained in the marriage for a long time. To bring it up again will require wisdom. Gottman suggests that if either spouse begins to feel overwhelmed, it is important to stop the discussion and take a 20 minute break. During that 20 minute break, do something that is calming (read, go for a walk, listen to some music, pray).

3. Reach a Temporary Compromise

Gottman says that this next step will allow you to continue to discuss the issue. It will likely never go away but you are seeking to “defang” the issue that is causing gridlock. You do this by separating the issue in two ways and drawing two circles:

“Nonnegotiable areas” circle: These are the aspects of the conflict that you absolutely cannot give on without violating your basic needs or core values.

“Areas of flexibility” circle: This category includes all parts of the issue where you can be flexible, because they are not so “hot” for you.

Gottman encourages the couple to make the nonnegotiable circle as small as they can and the flexibility circle as big as possible. The couple should make an attempt over the next two months and then come back to the table and evaluate how they are doing. This will not solve the problem but it will help a couple live more peacefully with one another.

Here is an example of reaching a temporary compromise from Gottman’s book:

Kyle and Nicole

Gridlocked problem: Very different comfort levels with expressing emotions.

1. Detect and Discuss the Dreams Within the Conflict
Nicole’s Dream: Being emotional is part of her self-identity and part of what gives meaning to her life.
Kyle’s Dream: He sees being emotional as a weakness.

2. Remain Calm
They both agree that if either starts to feel overwhelmed in the discussing that it is okay to take a break and come back to discuss more.

3. Reach Temporary Compromise (Two-Circled Method)

Nonnegotiable areas:
Nicole’s: She cannot stop reacting with great passion to life.
Kyle’s: He cannot become a highly emotional person just to please her.

Areas of flexibility: They both accept that their spouse cannot change a basic personality trait.

Temporary Compromise: They will be respectful of their differences in this area. He will be receptive to her need to talk about and share feelings. She will accept when he cannot do this.

Ongoing Conflict: They will continue to have very different approaches to expressing emotion. (p.257)

4. Say “Thank You”

Dealing with gridlock is never easy. That is why it is so important to end the discussion on a positive note. This will be a process that won’t be “fixed” quickly. You will know that progress is being made when the issue feels less loaded and scary.

Gottman and the Gospel

What are we to make of this approach to gridlock? First, Gottman will tell you that he has seen this work for many couples. That, by itself, ought to get our attention. Why would we not want to utilize some basic skills to help couples who are in the midst of gridlock? But can we offer couples something more than helpful skills? Better, can we offer them something that strengthens their ability to face gridlock in their marriages? I think so.

Listen carefully to the Apostle Paul in Philippians 2:

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, in any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Pondering the self-sacrificial work of Christ in our behalf and praying to Father, Son and Spirit for grace will certainly enable a couple to move forward with humility, thinking more carefully about their spouse. This does not mean that it will not be a process or that it will be easy. It does mean that there is something unique about tapping into a power and resource outside of ourselves.

Remember, listening to another person’s dreams, remaining calm, seeking compromise and expressing appreciation do not come naturally. Thankfully, we have Someone who has redeemed us and is “purifying for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (Titus 2:14).

Copyright © 2016 Timothy S. Lane

Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.

Two Things You Need When You Disagree With Your Spouse

Do you and your spouse seem to argue about the same issues that never get resolved? You are not alone. Even good marriages have these kinds of disagreements. In reality, all marriages have challenges. You can’t live in close proximity with another human being and not struggle to love them; and it’s the same with them as they relate to you.

John Gottman has spent a lifetime helping couples grow in their ability to love one another. In his most popular book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, he focuses on very practical ways we can love our spouses and enjoy our marriages through what he calls Positive Sentiment Override, or PSO. The first three aspects of PSO are:

  • Enhance Your Love Maps: never stop learning who your spouse is.
  • Nurture Your Fondness and Admiration: make sure you focus on the positive more than the negative.
  • Turn Toward Each Other Instead of Away: always try to tune into your spouse.

These first three enable a couple to build a solid friendship. Gottman has found that couples who have more positive than negative interactions and thoughts about their spouses are better able to deal with conflicts when they emerge.

Our research confirms the central role that bids play in a relationship. In our six-year follow-up of newlyweds, we found that couples who remained married had turned toward their partner’s bids an average of 86 percent of the time in the Love Lab, while those who ended up divorced had averaged only 33 percent (p.88)

With that foundation, Gottman says that you will more likely be able to navigate the challenges of marriage. He then proposes four things that are necessary for doing just that. Here are the first two:

Let Your Partner Influence You

In every relationship, there are power issues that must be acknowledged. In Genesis, immediately after the Fall, Adam and Eve entered into what some have described as the battle of the sexes. Genesis 3:16 says, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” This is describing sinful power plays between husband and wife as a result of the fall.

Gottman has observed and sees the importance of each partner sharing strengths and allowing each to influence the other:

In our long-term study of 130 newlywed couples, whom we followed for nine years, we found that, even in the first few months of marriage, men who allowed their wives to influence them had happier relationships and were less likely to eventually divorce than men who resisted their wives’ influence. Statistically speaking, when a man is not willing to share power with his partner there is an 81 percent chance that his marriage will self-destruct (p. 116).

Gottman goes on to say that no matter what your religious views are, mutual respect and learning from each other are necessary for a strong marriage. This is consistent with the appropriately understood meaning of Ephesians 5:22-33, which emphasizes serving one another within the context of marriage. The bottom line is mutual respect and a willingness to learn from one another is critical for a couple to enjoy their relationship.

Tim and Kathy Keller put it this way in their book, The Meaning of Marriage,

Whether we are husband or wife, we are not to live for ourselves but for the other. And that is the hardest yet single most important function of being a husband or a wife in marriage (p.50).

Solve Your Solvable Problems

At this point, he begins to address conflict. This comes on the heels of the first four principles. He isn’t avoiding the issue, he is saying that a couple’s ability to navigate conflict is equal to their friendship. But once he gets here, he spends four chapters providing some of the most practical advice and counsel I have read.

He first distinguishes between two types of conflict in a marriage,

Although you may feel your situation is unique, we have found that all marital conflicts, ranging from mundane annoyances to all-out wars, really fall into one of two categories: either they can be resolved, or they are perpetual, which means they will be a part of your lives forever in some form or another. Once you are able to identify and define your various disagreements, you’ll be able to customize your coping strategies, depending on which of these two types of conflict you’re having (p. 137).

Perpetual problems: make up about 69% of happy couples’ conflict (having kids, sex, money, housework, raising and disciplining kids to name a few). What happy couples are able to do is live with these differences and approach it with a sense of humor. In unstable marriages, these same problems eventually kill the relationship. Gottman calls this “gridlock.”

Solvable problems: make up the remaining 31% of conflict in a marriage. If not addressed in helpful ways, they can have a negative impact on the relationship, creating space for the four horsemen of the apocalypse (criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling). Here are the basic skills all couples need to deal with their solvable problems:

  • Distinguishing between perpetual and solvable problems
  • Soften your start-up
  • Learn to make and receive repair attempts
  • Soothe yourself and each other
  • Compromise
  • Process any grievances so that they don’t linger

In each of these items, you will find some practical skills that are easy to learn. He covers typical problems such as relations with in-laws, money, chores around the house, sex and becoming new parents.

I can’t stress enough how helpful these three chapters are!

Gottman and the Gospel

John Gottman’s research will serve you and your spouse well. If you are a helper/counselor, his material will serve well those you seek to help. I continue to find that true in my own marriage and those I minister to. Scripture confirms Gottman’s research and his astute observations. But the Christian has an additional perspective that is truly humbling, comforting and liberating. We have deeper themes of grace, mercy and forgiveness that are available to us in Christ. While skills are important, building skillful living on the foundation of the Gospel is transformational. While happy marriages are good, happy marriages where each spouse is being conformed into the likeness of Christ is much better.

Copyright © 2016 Timothy S. Lane

Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.

Four Things That Could Be Hurting Your Marriage This Year

We all know what makes for a good marriage; a climate of grace, good communication, healthy disagreements resolved in ways that honor the other, forgiveness, empathy, good companionship and intimate sex. But are you as keen to spot the things that could be slowly destroying your marriage?

Most couples can usually intuitively tell that things aren’t right but often can’t name with specificity what is hurting their relationship. For more than four decades, John Gottman has done some significant research on what makes relationships work and what destroys those same relationships in his “Love Lab” located in Seattle, Washington. Through interviews, monitoring blood pressure, heart rates, amount of sweat and video-taped interactions between couples, Gottman and his associates have uncovered some obvious but illusive conclusions. Here is one:

The determining factor in whether wives feel satisfied with the sex, romance and passion in their marriages is, by 70%, the quality of the couple’s friendship. For men, the determining factor is, by 70%, the quality of the couple’s friendship. So men and women come from the same planet after all (p. 19)

Four Marriage Defeaters

Since friendship is so important, Gottman has sought to find out what hinders and helps couples develop that friendship or what he calls “attunement.” In one section, he specifies four things that negatively impact the friendship. He calls them “the four horsemen of the apocalypse.” They are:

  1. Criticism: Gottman says that there is a difference between a complaint and a criticism. All marriages have complaints. It’s when a complaint turns into a criticism that indicates something serious is going wrong. A complaint focuses on a specific behavior. “I’m really upset that you didn’t call to let me know you were going to be late. Going forward, can you please let me know?” That is a complaint. It has 3 parts: 1. How you feel (I’m really upset); 2. About a specific behavior (You did not call to let me know you were going to be late) 3. And here is what I need/want/prefer (Could you please call going forward?).  Gottman defines the difference between a complaint and criticism: In contrast, a criticism is global and expresses negative feelings or opinions about the other’s character or personality (p.33). Criticism is an attack on one’s character. It is much more severe in its conclusions. It sounds like this, “You are always late. You never give me a heads up. You are always just thinking about your schedule and your needs!” Can you see how criticism can destroy your marriage?
     
  2. Contempt: Gottman says that “the second horseman arises from a sense of superiority over one’s partner. It is a form of disrespect.” He goes on to say that “sarcasm, cynicism...name-calling, eye-rolling, mockery and hostile humor are all forms of contempt. In whatever form, contempt is poisonous to a relationship because it conveys disgust. It’s virtually impossible to resolve a problem when your partner is getting the message you’re disgusted with him or her. Inevitably, contempt leads to more conflict rather than reconciliation (p.34).”
     
  3. Defensiveness: While it may make sense that you would want to defend yourself in the face of criticism and contempt, Gottman says that “research shows that this approach rarely has the desired effect. The attacking spouse does not back down or apologize. This is because defensiveness is really a way of blaming your partner. You’re saying, in effect, ‘The problem isn’t me, it’s you.’” There is a difference between healthy disagreement which leads to helpful resolution and Gottman’s definition of defensiveness. He spends most of his time helping couples engage with one another.
     
  4. Stonewalling: the fourth horseman, stonewalling. is when one or both give up and just walk away and go silent. Gottman says, “criticism, contempt, and defensiveness don’t always gallop into a home in strict order. They function more like a relay match--handing the baton off to each other over and over again if the couple can't put a stop to it (p.37). The final horseman indicates that the couple has stopped trying and is moving away from one another. Stonewalling usually arrives later in a marriage. That’s why you may not see it in a newly married couple but you can spot it in a couple who has been married for a longer period of time.”

The Four Horsemen and James 4

John Gottman has done countless marriages a big favor through his research and writings. I have seen this in my own marriage as well as others I have counseled and taught. His observations bring specificity and concreteness to what thoughts and behaviors are at work in a marriage that is not growing. These observations alone can help a couple move away from letting the four horseman into their relationship. And yet, Scripture gives us an even deeper diagnosis. In James 4:1-3, it says that we fight and quarrel because of “desires that battle within us.” Criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling are tied to deeper motives that are driven by a heart that has strayed from God. What needs to be addressed includes thinking and behavior but also matters of core commitments. This is where the grace of God breaks in and rescues us from ourselves and others from us!

Gottman and the Gospel

What are we to make of this? Gottman helps us discern what specific thoughts and behaviors look like when a marriage is either growing or dying. These insights can be wonderfully freeing for the more relationally obtuse! And yet, the Scriptures gives us more. In the Bible, we meet a God of grace who treats us in the exact opposite ways from the four horsemen. Jesus comes to seek and save. Romans 5:8 says that, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He comes to redeem what is most broken in us; hearts that have strayed from God. When that takes place, there is a whole new dimension to life and change that enables us to follow Jesus’ example and to say no to criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling. Instead, we can move towards one another with gentleness, encouragement and grace because this is how Jesus, our Bridegroom, has moved towards you and me.

For further reading about John Gottman and his work, the following book will serve as a helpful introduction.

Copyright © 2016 Timothy S. Lane

Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.

Slander in the Camp

Do not spread false reports. Do not help a wicked person by being a malicious witness. Exodus 23:1
There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up dissension among brothers and sisters. Proverbs 6:16-19

How many of you have witnessed the evils of slander? Sadly, it happens all the time in circles of people who name Jesus as their King and Redeemer. The more I speak with leaders and fellow Christians, the more I realize how prevalent this is.

Slander is a violation of the 9th commandment, "You shall not bear false witness." The usual suspect we think of when it involves violating the 9th commandment is gossip. While gossip is clearly evil, we often leave out slander. My guess is that we don't really think Christians will go there. Sadly, that is not the case.

Gossip and slander are different. The difference is that slander is much more intentional. Slander is out to ruin the person or drive their reputation into the ground. Listen to the way Paul situates slander in his catalogue of sins of speech in Ephesians 4:31-32. He clearly places slander in the anger family. Notice that it is driven by the opposite of forgiveness and reconciliation:

Get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

In his commentary on Ephesians, John Stott defines the following words:

  • Bitterness (pikria): a sour spirit and sour speech.
  • Rage (thymos): a passionate rage.
  • Anger (orge): settled and sullen hostility.
  • Brawling (krauge): people who get excited, raise their voices in a quarrel, and start shouting, even screaming.
  • Slander (blasphemia): speaking evil of others, especially behind their backs, and so defaming and even destroying their reputation.
  • Malice (kakia): ill will, wishing and probably plotting evil against someone.

Another word for slander in Greek is diabolos. It is the word that is used for Satan and means the "accuser", the one who attacks the brethren. Slander is the passionate, determined goal of one person to destroy another. As you can see, it is driven by bitterness, rage, anger, brawling and every form of malice. It is diabolical. What are a few ways that we may attempt to slander someone for the purpose of harming their reputation?

  • Sensationalism--spinning what someone said to sound evil.
  • Betraying confidence--using constructive criticism shared in private and telling the person not present what was said with an evil spin. This is usually done so that they will join in the brawl against another person.
  • Putting words in a person's mouth that were never said. This is a more straightforward, outright lie.

Why is Paul writing this to Christians? Because Christians are as capable of this as any other person. As John Owen once said, "The seed of every known sin is in my heart." Putting it simply, we are all capable of doing this. Churches, businesses, ministries and relationships are ruined...not from without, but from within.

Below is a song called, "The Murder Weapon" by T-Bone Burnett. It is a song about the evils of the tongue. It is a reminder of the fall-out of evil speech. I've included the lyrics and the YouTube video.

We are all capable of gossip and slander. Only by God's grace can we avoid them.

It can kill from any distance but you never see it strike
There isn't any warning, no blinding flash of light
It hits you when your back's turned or when your eyes are closed
There isn't any shelter and it cannot be controlled
It can be as subtle as a whisper in the dark
Or as brutal and as cutting as the teeth of a shark

 
Chorus: The murder weapon
There is no good description for the way it makes you feel
It's as lethal as a stiletto and more easily concealed
It sometimes is strategic and sometimes not at all
But you get caught in the fallout, win, lose or draw
There is no escape except to go completely mad
If it doesn't kill you right at first it makes you wish it had

Chorus: The murder weapon

 

Copyright © 2015 Timothy S. Lane

Comment

Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at a counseling organization  in Philadelphia, PA. Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches. For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.