Last week on a walk with my neighbor, we were comparing stories of similar conversations we had been having with our teenage sons over their forgetfulness of doing household chores.
The conversations with our sons went something like this:
Mom: “Son, I know you have a lot of homework but please don’t forget to take care of your household chores as well.”
Son: Silent. Body language says: I am irritated with that statement but not sure how to respond.
Mom: “Did you hear what I said?”
Son: “Do you know how hard I work? It’s not like I am standing around doing nothing. Can’t I just have a break.”
Mom: “I never said you didn’t work hard. I am only reminding you that you have household chores you need to do in addition to your school work.”
This conversation made me laugh because I realized I was not alone in my conversations with my son, and it also reminded me of a blog I wrote a few years back about reading between the lines.
How often do we find ourselves reading between the lines not only in family relationships but also in work relationships? My son read: My mom doesn’t appreciate how hard I work. She doesn’t notice or recognize how much I do. If she did, she would never ask me to do my chores. Of course, this assumption was not the truth, it was only how my son was feeling at the time of the conversation.
It is time we started taking people at their word and be free from the guessing game of reading between the lines.
Re-posted from June 2013:
How often in relationships do you find yourself trying to reading between the lines?
One of the most valuable gifts I ever received was when a friend noticed my need to read in-between the lines and she said, “Angela, I don’t know what relationships you have with other people, but with me, I would like our yeses to be yes, and our noes to be no. I don’t want you to give my words meaning that I didn’t say.” In that moment, I felt absolute freedom. Freedom from the responsibility to be a people pleaser, a peace-keeper, or a mind-reader.
Jesus taught his disciples the same principle. “All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” Matthew 5:37 (NIV).
The statement, “anything beyond this comes from the evil one” seems a bit harsh, doesn’t it? But it really isn’t when you understand that Satan’s main goal is to break relationship. He is famous for encouraging us to interpret conversations through our feelings instead of truth. This can turn mental friction into fire, even in the most platonic of conversations.
If you decide to live by the rule of letting your yeses be yes and your noes be no, you give yourself the freedom to say what you need and the responder the option to answer honestly. When you respond to others with the same expectation, holding them accountable for their words, you will eventually stop the unhealthy patterns of non-verbal communication and encourage that person to speak their needs and desires as well.
Today, I invite you to live a life of freedom by simply saying ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.