An Introduction to Biblical Nonviolent Communication

Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is staying connected to the compassionate nature that God placed within each of us. We use NVC to build and renew our relationships with God and the significant people in our lives. As we communicate in a transformed way, it makes life more wonderful for ourselves and for the people who hear what we say.

NVC trains our hearts and minds to speak in a way that is not exploitative, aggressive, selfish, thoughtless, contentious or prone to causing pain. We seek what Jabez prayed for:

Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!

1 Chronicles 4:10, NKJV (emphasis mine)

We have all been raised in an environment saturated with violent language. We often inflict upon others our blaming and shaming thoughts by expressing this kind of language, as well. Our words harm ourselves and others by preventing communication, bringing trauma, and making life more difficult than it needs to be. Thankfully, God is able to rebuke our mouths to keep us from causing pain!

NVC teaches us to divorce ourselves from blame, guilt, and unrighteous anger. Instead, we use words as vessels of gift giving that come from our hearts. We learn to desire uplifting and positive language, and we use it like a child feeding a duck – with utter joy!

Our goal is to establish a flow of compassion from ourselves to others and back; a mutual giving from the heart. We have to stop playing the game of “who’s right?”, and we must learn to stop judging, labeling, accusing and attacking one another, driving even deeper wedges of division.

We may call this study, Biblical Nonviolent Communication, because the concepts we will address are firmly rooted in God’s word. Additionally, we borrow heavily from the presentation of these truths by Dr. Marshall B. Rosenberg, who masterfully explains this subject in his acclaimed book, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life.

Rosenberg organizes and instructs very well. He aptly shows us that we tragically tend to blame and shame the people we love and care about, even though we are just trying to get our needs met. Of course, it is “tragic” because we are even less likely to get those needs met by using violent and exploitative language.

As we will discover, there are some very effective strategies we may use that are extremely successful, and these are also evident in Scripture. The Bible shows us what is necessary for getting our needs met, and it puts an end to unnecessary conflict in our relationships and dialogues with the people around us.

Rosenberg’s book, however, is also very helpful because it addresses our common failure to meet needs, resulting in conflict and trauma, and provides simple strategies we can use in conversation.

The right approach to communicating with others is, first, to prayerfully decide that we are going to use a language of love and compassion. It is actually quite simple. It is not intellectually difficult to understand, but it is impossible to attain if your attitude is not right. Thus, using Biblical NVC is not only a matter of the mind, but also a matter of the heart!

We have to determine our inward being is “in it to win it”, if we are going to have peace in our homes, places of employment, churches, and wherever we interact with people. We should remember the Great Commandment and its secondary counterpart:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Matthew 22:37 – 39, ESV

Without this love in our hearts, we are capable of nothing. Mind is mentioned, but mind is not mentioned first and foremost. It is with the heart that we embrace our Creator and other people he created in his own image.

Secondly, in order to use a language of love, the mind must be retrained to cease all blaming and shaming activity it has been used to. It must be transformed and renewed in order to sufficiently prove and approve what is the good, pleasing and perfect will of God (ref. Rom. 12:2).

Since our minds have been transformed by the power of the Spirit of God, we become capable of loving our neighbors fervently, and we can place their needs before our own. We can speak to them in a way which articulately communicates this priority.

Notice the apostle’s inspired instruction to this end:

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

Philippians 2:3, 4, ESV

Paul is writing about a sacrificial giving, which is what lies at the heart of Biblical NVC. It is an extraordinary dialect of selfless love. In a nutshell, NVC contains four essential elements:

  1. Observations
  2. Feelings
  3. Needs
  4. Requests

We have to fine-tune our Biblical understanding of each of these aspects of the NVC process in order to carefully implement it into our daily language, but I assure you that it can be done. Indeed, it requires great effort, but anything is possible with God’s help (ref. Matt. 19:26).

As we all know, right thinking leads to right living, and our thinking must be radically changed in order to implement the principles of NVC. We will also need to understand why each of these are important, and how to express them honestly, while also receiving empathically, always searching diligently for the needs and feelings of others.

Remember that Biblical NVC is all about connecting with feelings and needs. We are laying aside the violent blaming language we are all so very familiar with. Each of us grew up in this environment. It was driven into our psyche by everyone around us. Our mouths are just recycling the same negative energy we have heard for years.

The superior communication we are going to retrain our minds to use is truly not of this world. It is an alien language from above, foreign to our fallen and cursed realm. It was inspired by an extraterrestrial Being known as “YHWH” (Yahweh, or God). Therefore, it is ancient, divine, and superior to anything we are familiar with on earth.

His perfect law of love was inscribed upon holy documents thousands of years ago, but now it may be supernaturally inscribed upon our hearts. Notice the ancient prophet Ezekiel’s remarks:

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Ezekiel 36:26, 27, ESV

God’s love language becomes internalized as we apply the concepts of Biblical NVC. Ezekiel’s counterpart, Jeremiah, stated the following to evidence this incredible truth:

“I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

Jeremiah 31:33, ESV

The Bible is replete with this kind of inspiring verbiage about God’s promise to “rewire” our hearts to speak in a way he wants us to speak, resulting in perfect peace and a more wonderful life for everyone around us.

Here is the sad reality: Rather than tapping into this magnificent power made available to us, what have most of us done? We tend to use abusive language. We hurt others with our corrupt communication, and to what end? We never get closer to resolving any conflict and getting our needs met!

Had we only paid attention to the word of God, we could have avoided so much heartache, including the heartache caused by bitterness, resentment, estrangement, hard feelings, and, of course, divorce! We have all invited some degree of trauma into our lives by ignorantly using violent language.

It is very natural to communicate this way. and we do so unconsciously, but that is no excuse. The perfect statutes of God teach us how to apply his Spirit’s power in our lives. For example, notice the explicit instruction that Paul gave in his Ephesian epistle:

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Ephesians 4:29, NIV (emphasis mine)

2,000 years ago, God instructed to build up, “according to needs”. It is incumbent upon each of us to allow the Spirit of God to transfer this principle to our hearts from the inspired page. In other words, simply read and believe what the Spirit says! Prayerfully using Biblical NVC empowers us to apply what God prescribed for the proper meeting of needs.

Like old Jabez, we must seek the enlargement of our spiritual influence over those we communicate with. We do not seek their harm with our careless and destructive words! We must discover their needs, and the means of meeting those needs, if there is to be any hope of meeting our own needs.

We must also carefully note, this does not necessarily mean we agree with everything that everyone tells us just to “get along”, and avoid strife. Far from it! We do, however, receive every word directed at us, not as attacks that must be defended against, but as gifts shared by someone in pain.

We then feel their pain, searching each statement for specific unmet needs. We humbly value and recognize their best interests, seeking their well-being and comfort. Rather than harboring and speaking moralistic judgments and criticisms, we are concerned with only one thing – and that one thing is meeting needs.

Judgment is reserved for God anyway. The classifying and impugning of man’s character will take place at the judgment seat of Christ (ref. Rom. 2:5, 6; 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10). NVC is not concerned with judging, (and Biblical NVC abhors judgments!). On both counts, our single interest is the meeting of needs.

While these concepts may be new to you, and you may still have some reservations about this approach to conflict resolution, please open your heart to the possibilities. It is our hope that you will experience a more abundant home life using Biblical NVC. Take this amazing journey with us, as we discover how to give supernaturally by speaking and listening God’s way. – Michael A. Hildreth

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