Do you know or relate to any of these women?

(1) The woman who avoids community with other women because she gets along better with men.

(2) The woman who sends her friend, spouse or another pastor to deal with conflict on her behalf.

(3) The woman who gossips.

(4) The woman who becomes frustrated and feels used by the church because she has overcommitted.

Many of these things are symptoms of a culture that needs to grow in cultivating relational trust.

In a culture of relational trust, people behave with integrity in their interactions and relationships.  What people say is what they mean.  They communicate honestly and directly with one another. They take one another at their word.

Relational trust is a distinctive mark and a necessary attribute of Christian community.

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It’s a distinctive mark.  Christians can be relationally trustworthy because our worth is found in Christ alone.  Finding our identity in Him frees us up to receive direct feedback because we’re not threatened by failure or weakness in Christ. We are free to give direct feedback because we’re not slaves to the approval of man.  We can tell one another the truth because know that a person’s value has nothing to do with their performance.

It’s a necessary attribute.  Hebrews tells us to exhort one another as long as it’s called today so that we aren’t hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  One of our primary jobs in our community is to communicate directly with one another when we see blind spots.  One of our primary means of perseverance is people around us speaking into our lives about our own blind spots.

Here’s a tool to help you think through what it would look like to cultivate a culture of relational trust:

RELATIONALLY TRUSTWORTHY

VS…

Communicates clearly what they want and desire.

Often have wants and desires that they expect others to know without being clearly stated.

When miscommunication occurs, has a disposition of trust, and seeks to understand rather than be understood.

Assumes the other person is aware of expectations, and becomes frustrated when unspoken expectations are not met.

Communicates frustrations graciously and tactfully.

Doesn’t communicate frustrations directly or at all. Hints at areas where they are frustrated or brings them up in ‘joking’ ways or makes ‘sarcastic jabs.’

Communicates frustrations directly to the person involved.

Communicates the frustrations or hurts involving a certain individual to others instead of to that person directly.

Owns responsibility in miscommunication.

Explains miscommunication as another person’s sin.

Communicates frustrations sincerely and transparently.

Conceals frustration with insincere friendliness.

Doesn’t enable gossip but encourages everyone to discuss conflict with the primary individual involved.

Condones gossip by listening to someone vent about someone else or stepping in as a ‘go-between’ rather than facilitating resolution.

Graciously receives feedback.

Becomes defensive when presented with feedback or conveys graciousness but justifies behavior to someone else.

Let’s yes’s be yes and no’s be no.

Has a difficult time communicating that you are unable or unwilling to do something.  Becomes frustrated with the other person for asking, instead of taking responsibility for their response.

Questions to consider:

  • When was the last time your friends and close relationships offered you spiritual feedback?  What would it look like to cultivate an atmosphere that is open to humbly receiving exhortation?
  • Are people constantly failing to meet your expectations?  Are these expectations ever communicated directly and clearly? What would it look like to take responsibility for miscommunication in your community?
  • When you have a friend who is walking into sin, do you love them enough to speak gentle correction? Or do you avoid and hope someone else steps in?  What does it look like to speak the truth in love?
  • Do you ever enable gossip by listening to someone ‘vent’ about a situation without encouraging them to engage the involved parties directly? What would it look like to empower those around you to communicate directly with one another?  How can you create safe spaces for that to happen?

About The Author

Fabs Harford

Fabienne Harford is a coach, teacher and writer who offers personal coaching, counseling, training, & resources to help organizations and individuals grow in their relationships, development, & skills. Fabienne Harford holds a Masters in Science with Distinction in Mental Health with a focus on Cultural and Global Perspectives, a Bachelors in English and is certified in personality analysis. She has worked in multiple roles across a variety of industries including social work, spiritual counseling, management, curriculum development, consulting, writing, and speaking. You can find more about her at fabsharford.com or inprocesscollective.com.

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