Both of my children have what used to be called Asperger’s but is now generally referred to as high functioning autism. If you want God to teach you patience, have two kids with Asperger’s.
My daughter was the toughest one to figure out what exactly was going on with her. She doesn’t exhibit some of what you would consider to be the well-known behaviors of Asperger’s. She is very social, vocal, and emotional. When we received the diagnosis for my daughter, we automatically realized that our son would likely receive the same diagnosis, except his Asperger’s is more stereotypical (think Sheldon on Big Bang Theory or Young Sheldon).
Needless to say, I have difficulty communicating with my children at times. In fact, our difficulty in communicating with my daughter was what drove us to seek help. More importantly however, it drove me to prayer. After we received her diagnosis, I specifically prayed, “God, I know that there is a way for me to communicate better with my daughter, and I know the answer is in the Bible and probably in the direct words and teachings of Jesus; please help me find it.”
A few weeks later I found myself in a communication class put on through the secular company for which I work. The class was based on the book, Crucial Conversations. Given the overall “woke” philosophy of the company I work for, I didn’t have very high expectations. However, about halfway through the training, I started getting interested.
The reason that my interest was piqued was that I began to find correlations between what was being taught in the class and what Jesus said on the Sermon on the Mount.
For instance: “If you have done something wrong or offended the other person, first apologize,” correlates to: “[If] brother or sister has something against you. . . First go and be reconciled to them.” (Matthew 5:23-24)
“Deescalate arguments. Failure to deescalate arguments can cause you to lose more than the argument,” correlates to “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.” (Matthew 5:25-26)
“Clearly define your terms,” correlates to “All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No;’ anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:37)
I sat there in amazement as I realized that a good portion of the Sermon on the Mount was about having constructive relationships and conversations with other people. It is not just instructions on how to be a good person, it is instructions on how to have good relationships that positively affect other people.
But the main crux of Crucial Conversations is what really stuck with me, “People who feel safe in a conversation will listen to anything you have to say. People who do not feel safe, will not hear a word you have to say.”
Think about the conversations that Jesus had with the people He was trying to reach; the woman at the well, Zacchaeus, Nicodemus, the people He healed; He made them feel safe in a conversation with Him. The Pharisees and Sadducees don’t count given that Jesus knew He wasn’t reaching them (Matthew 7:6 and chapter 10 of Crucial Conversations).
And then I realized, I hadn’t been making sure my daughter (or my wife, or my son) felt safe in a conversation with me.
Now I know what you are thinking. In order to make people feel safe in conversations with you, that is going to cost you more than you want to pay.
However, Jesus also commanded His disciples in the Sermon on the Mount, “I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:39-42)
Why would you do those things?
In order to make the other person feel safe in a conversation or relationship with you.
Is that not what Jesus did when He came to earth? He was born and lived in a manner that made humans feel safe in His presence. He laid aside His glory in order to be like us so that He might be able to have a conversation and relationship with us.
Jesus paid a high price in order to be able to make us feel safe so that he might be able to restore the relationship with us. As disciples of Jesus, we are to imitate and obey Him. Therefore, in difficult conversations and relationships, we should be willing to pay the high price of our own comfort and pride in order to make the other person feel safe if we desire to have a positive conversation or relationship with them.
After reading Crucial Conversations and re-reading the Sermon on the Mount, here are 10 steps I believe we should follow in order to have Christ-like conversations in difficult circumstances and relationships:
- As a disciple of Jesus, it is your responsibility to pay the price of making the other person feel safe in the conversation.
- As a disciple of Jesus, it is your responsibility to first apologize for real or perceived offenses against the other person.
- As a disciple of Jesus, it is your responsibility to deescalate the conversation.
- As a disciple of Jesus, it is your responsibility to ensure that the words and terms that you and the other person are using are clearly defined and agreed upon.
- As a disciple of Jesus, it is your responsibility to listen to the other person’s story and understand why they feel the way they do.
- As a disciple of Jesus, it is your responsibility to ensure that you are not telling yourself or believing untrue information or stories about the other person.
- As a disciple of Jesus, it is your responsibility to clearly and truthfully tell your story and help the other person understand why you feel the way that you do.
- As a disciple of Jesus, it is your responsibility to negotiate a plan to move forward in the conversation and relationship.
- As a disciple of Jesus, it is your responsibility to ensure that the plan is carried out.
- As a disciple of Jesus, it is your responsibility to repeat any or all of these steps in order to ensure a positive and constructive conversation and relationship.
For more information, please read Crucial Conversations (remember it is a secular book) and more importantly, read the Sermon on the Mount (and the rest of the Bible).
For King Jesus,