Speaking the Truth in Love…and Conviction

I read the post prior to this one again. Perhaps my heart is just a wee bit more sensitive today than it was when I was writing that day, but I’m reminded of how deeply drenched in the culture I have become. Maybe I wasn’t as transparent in that post as I might have been, and I’m responding to that with some fresh perspective. In case it came off a bit like I have a grip on this, or I was excluding myself from the need for self-examination in this topic, please know that was not the intent. (My closest friends are probably giggling.) The reason for delay in another post is completely related to just this thing.

Brace yourselves, since this has the potential to be…personal.  😉

I was a sign language interpreter for a time. For several years I studied and put into practice those things which are most useful in nonverbal communication: facial expressions and gestures. Who knew you could spend an entire college course focusing on the face alone? There is a face for everything: yes, no, questions, extreme emphasis, etc. Oddly enough, one who does not know the meaning of these somewhat exaggerated facial expressions will often misinterpret them as anger, confusion, or something altogether different from the intended message. I say all of this because there is something really important here.

Jan Johnson mentions something on pages 117 and 119 in Invitation to the Jesus Life that caught my attention. “Another exercise that helps in speaking the truth in love is retraining the body…I was shocked to see that I could communicate love instead of contempt with the arch of my eyebrows, the way I held my arms, and the set of my mouth” (p. 117). She continues with an exercise: “Retrain the body. Start with the eyes. Reflect judgment and contempt, then love. Do the same with your shoulders. Then eyebrows (be sure to catch this one in the mirror; it will horrify you), mouth and lips…” (p. 119). See my interest in this little tidbit now?

I’m aware of this at some level most of the time, even hyper-aware. I find myself “reading” faces during conversations, while watching television, and even while listening to speakers (if I’m not taking ridiculous amounts of notes). I’ve even sent my own children to the mirror to take a look at the faces they’ve displayed at times. Now, I’m starting to realize this particular week how important it may be for me to check the mirror a little more frequently than I do. This is where self-examination becomes so important.

I’ve asked the Lord to reveal the moments I’m communicating with contempt. Here are some things I’ve been made more aware of in the last week.

  • A “wait one minute” hand shape can become an accusatory hand shape with a slight twist of the wrist. That is not love when matched with a certain heart.
  • The eyebrows might need more than tweezers to pluck out the message they sometimes communicate when paired with the wrong heart.
  • When my heart is not loving, my mouth set does not mean my lips can compete with Coach or Gucci.

These are just a few of the little things that were brought to my attention that I can share with you. This is a very real struggle I face. I’m so imperfect…and I’m so used to the way the culture has permeated my soul. I’m sensitive to these little nonverbal cues when I’m on the receiving end (probably because I tend to make decisions based on others’ nonverbals), but I’ve grown less sensitive on the production end. Lord, change me on the inside in this area so I am changed on the outside.

I’m considering some intense self-examination in this area. As I mentioned above, Jan Johnson suggests breaking out a mirror and spending some time experimenting with nonverbal communication. I tend to think it could be a very beneficial exercise. Perhaps it’s time for me to put some more time in front of the mirror like I did years ago in signing classes, but for a whole other intended purpose. I desire to communicate differently than I do.

I realize I haven’t exactly landed a “splash” in this grouping of posts yet. Hang on. It’s probably coming. I felt more sensitive to the incoming droplet and the ripple effect in that order this time. The central splash just might be eluding me for the moment.

I would love to hear what you’re being led to think about and process and do as you read along. Please let me know.


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One Response to “Speaking the Truth in Love…and Conviction”

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