Hearing the Unspoken Message

facialexpression.jpgI’ve been thinking today about the unspoken messages we receive in most relationships.  Some of these messages may be very positive and encouraging and some may be quite negative.  For instance, one of the unspoken messages in many homes goes something like this: "This is a warm, inviting, safe place.  Welcome home!"  In some families, the unspoken message is negative: "This is a chaotic, unstable place.  You never know what will happen or how people will treat you.  Do not discuss this issue or acknowledge that it exists!"

Likewise, friends, ministers, school teachers, employers, etc. can all communicate unspoken messages.  

From the friend:  "You can’t depend on me.  I told you that I would call you back but this doesn’t mean I am really going to call you."  In contrast, the unspoken message from another friend may be "When I tell you I will meet you for lunch at 12:00, I will be there.  I respect you and your time too much to keep you waiting."

From the minister: "Don’t disagree with me.  To disagree with me means you are not loyal.  Anyway, I am the expert, and I know better than anyone else around here what ought to be done."   In contrast, another minister may communicate this unspoken message, "I believe in you and am not threatened when you are growing and learning."

I could give other examples, but I suspect you have your own examples.  One thing for certain, we do communicate unspoken messages to other people. 

What are some unspoken messages you have received from others?  Can you recall some unspoken messages that seemed to drown out and contradict the message being spoken?

(John Ortberg’s article entitled "Your Hidden Curriculum," which appears in the Winter 2009 print edition of Leadership, contains some of these seed thoughts.)

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

4 thoughts on “Hearing the Unspoken Message

  1. The many unspoken messages received, and probably the ones  unwittingly passed on, could be quite a list. There were many lies that I believed for a long time, but God in HIS grace and mercy through His Word, with the loving help of godly friends, renewed my mind! The most damage done was the message that God was One who was purposely poised to trip me up.  It was always more about how one performed and not that one had value because of who  one is in Christ. If you can’t ever please your earthly father, how could you possibly please a Holy God? I just pray that the messages I pass on are those of acceptance, belonging, love, respect and appreciation.  

  2. Regarding the minister’s message, I actually belonged to a church/college environment (worked on staff there) where that exact message was spoken, in a threatening manner, to the entire staff. There were some issues surrounding that, it didn’t come out of nowhere. Nevertheless, my antenna went up and I was out of there within months. Anyways, yes, I can recall many unspoken messages throughout my life. Especially in my home growing up. Your post makes me stop and consider what messages I might be sending to others. And what messages I might need to speak, to ensure the proper message is being heard. 

  3. Dianne–That is sad regarding your experience with the minister at the church where you were.  So sad and so unhealthy.  Good that your antenna was up.Thanks very much.

  4. Karin,Your note reminds me of the seriousness of this issue.  What we pass on really does impact other people for good or for harm.  It does matter.