When was the last time you had a truly genuine, compassionate, heart-to-heart conversation? If you’re like me, it will be easy to think back to times of friendly banter, even gossip, but precious few occurrences of genuine conversation. What is genuine conversation, and how do we talk in a more genuine way?
The first aspect of genuine conversation is caring, and progression on this front often needs to occur before the conversation really begins.
If we look at all of the conversations Jesus had, through the gospels, we can see that He cared deeply for those he was addressing. His whole ministry was centered around telling people the truth, because He cared for them, even if it made Him unpopular. He could easily have engaged in more superficial conversation, or he could’ve held back from telling the truth, but He didn’t. He cared. All we need to do is to look to His encounters with His disciples (Peter especially), as well as with “sinners” (such as the adulterous woman in John 8).
Just as Jesus knows us, we should also aim to get to know the person we are speaking to, not settling for top-layer superficiality, but getting deeper into the person (when they are comfortable with it).
It is not always easy, but we need to realize that lifelong friendships are seldom built on “banter with the boys” (or girls). Through prayer and observation of Jesus, we need to learn to care.
Being sincere about yourself and what you say is the next step to genuine conversation.
Being open and true is a large aspect of sincerity: not putting on a façade, but simply being yourself, your consistent self. Trust is built between people, not masks. It takes courage to “lower your defenses”, but it is impossible to be genuine to an untrue front.
Beware: hypocrisy is the enemy of sincerity. A prime example is the Pharisees, who used the façade of love, service, and commitment to God to further themselves.
Mean what you say and say what you mean (to echo Horton the elephant, from Dr Seuss).
There are many people who will do just fine up to this point: caring for and speaking sincerely to a person, but they struggle to listen.
Reckless Abandon Ministries has an article on this (https://recklessabandonministries.com/2018/08/10/when-to-speak-up-and-when-to-step-back/), so I won’t go into much detail.
Proverbs 18:3 tells us, “To answer before listening— that is folly and shame.”
Part of being genuine is being a genuine listener. It is knowing when a person just wants to be listened to.
When in conversation, it is so easy to blurt out “what I think… and what I would do… and what I did 3 months ago… and what my grandmother always said… and what I saw in a magazine… and and and…” – exhausting, right?
I know that it is often difficult to listen – especially when we have got so much that is valuable to say – but often, for the other person’s sake, it is better for us to listen than to speak. In today’s world, it is difficult for people to stop, open up, and come to terms with what they are dealing with. Just being a person who will listen will help a lot.
Speak for a Purpose
Whenever we see a person, our first reaction is to talk, but we often don’t stop to think: why am I speaking, and what do I aim to do through this conversation? We forget the words of Proverbs 13:3, saying: “Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin.”
It is so easy to slip into gossip and superficial chatter, which has no positive purpose.
When we do respond after listening (as discussed above), we need to be selective with our words, driven by empathy, with the intent of building up and speaking truth (just like Christ). Our purpose of the conversation must be foremost in our minds, and obvious in our speech and conduct.
There must always be a filter when we speak, and we need to constantly be asking ourselves: “Is this truthful?”, “Is this helpful?”, “Is this necessary?” etc.
So don’t just talk! Talk for a reason.
Finally, commit your speech to God, the master of genuineness. It may be helpful to pray that your identity in Christ may be secure, pray (like Solomon did) for wisdom, pray for discernment and for an abundance of Christ’s love. After all, He is the only One who can change our hearts to compassion, sincerity, and pure purpose.
– Scott McGill