I had a friend once say, “You have never truly experienced a culture until you had a haircut in it.”
This proved to be very true a few years ago.
I had gone into a barber shop in Prague, rather confident in my language skills. I had longer hair at the time and just wanted a trim and even had a picture of the look I was going for.
About an hour and a half later, I was the proud owner of one of the most magnificent European mullets that you have ever seen.
I had expressed my desire well on my end (or so I thought), however I did not communicate it well to my audience.
Everyone knows that communication can be difficult, there are even University majors that center around the topic. However, we often forget all of this when we are expressing the desires of our heart, our boundaries or our core values.
Due to the topics of our hearts and values being so rooted into our core, we can falsely assume that everyone’s core is wired exactly the same. These assumptions manifest themselves in believing that our vocabulary, means of expression, body language, level of intensity and intentions, will all be received by the recipient just as they would by the giver.
In pursuing a balance, we must realize that everyone’s core and values will be different. Therefore when we are communicating boundaries, as we discussed earlier, we will need to be aware and respectful of these differences in order to communicate effectively.
In Scripture we see this in the life of Daniel quite clearly. In Daniel chapter one we see the dialogue between Ashpenaz, the chief official and Daniel regarding the boundaries Daniel is drawing. We see Daniel acknowledge the position that these boundaries will put Ashpenaz in and respond to those sensitively and respectfully, while also offering him a way forward. Daniel sees that his boundaries could put Ashpenaz at risk and offers to take this risk upon himself and creates the “test” as a means to explain these boundaries, which if they are not careful, could be taken as offensive to the king.
In learning to communicate our hearts, we must realize that there will be times we will end up with European mullets. Despite our best intentions we will not always be able to ensure that our messages will be received correctly. In these moments we must learn to give ourselves grace and not be afraid to try again. We must also show grace to others as they struggle to express their hearts. In showing grace we help to cultivate an environment of clarity, respect and growth.
Communicating our hearts will take work. One of the things I have found most helpful is having an interpreter. An interpreter, in this case, is a friend/coworker that knows you and your values. When a scenario presents itself and you need to voice your boundaries, this friend can be your editor/interpreter. They can help you see where your vocabulary may need to be tweaked or your intensity dialed down. They can help you to realize that someone else may be coming at this from a totally different perspective and that it isn’t safe to assume that there is a common ground.
I could have used an interpreter in that barbershop, there was definitely a lack of common ground!
When we express our hearts, we must be willing to ask for help. Asking for help requires vulnerability and this is usually why we avoid it. However, when we do not seek help we will have a greater risk of misunderstanding.
After we speak our hearts we often desire immediate responses. This desire can be unrealistic and unhealthy in many settings. We often sit on our desires for awhile. We practice expressing them in our heads or with our friends. We craft our propositions carefully. The recipient many times will have just heard about it or become aware of the need. They have just been presented with your proposed scenario or boundary line. We must realize that this will in turn shift some of their functioning and possibly their boundaries. We must give them space to be human and process, just as we have requested the space to be human and suggest the possible change.
There will be times, even when we communicate well that we will hear “No” as the answer. It is in these moments that we must learn to respect a healthy “No”, but also feel the freedom to understand the situation. It is in these conversations we may find out other factors we are not aware of or learn different value discrepancies. We must respect someone’s healthy “No” and then process what does this now mean for us. In our boundaries article last week we spoke of how it is not the job of our organization to maintain our work life balance. They may help create some environments that foster it, but we must realize that it is not the company’s focus or responsibility to maintain it.
This is also when we may be asked to take a step of faith. I can respect a healthy “no” but as a believer in Christ, I must also follow what God has called me to do. In the lives of Esther and Daniel, we see what this step of faith looks like. In the book of Esther in chapter five, she is dealing with a cultural “no”. You were not supposed to go before the king without being summoned. She was at risk of losing her life. Yet, what God was calling her to do was greater than what the culture dictated. In Daniel chapter six, we see that Daniel is faced with a legal “no” in being required to only pray to King Darius. Daniel defies the King and it is important to note, not spared of the consequences, but delivered through them. What we see is that in God’s deliverance of Daniel, the King’s heart opened to God.
We may stumble at times communicating our hearts and how God is calling us to live, but we must realize it is a process and an area in which we will always be growing.
I once had a European mullet, just long enough to get a good laugh with my friends and take a few pictures. Eventually the hair grew back and with some work, things were able to be fixed.
May we grant grace both to ourselves and to others as we pursue the health of our hearts.
Grace & Peace,