Reading: Communicate something positive about the other person

STEP ONE: Relationship - Build it.

5. Communicate something positive about the other person.Did you ever look closely at a penny?

It was my fifth-grade art class back in '66. We had to make something out of paper mache. Most of my classmates plastered balloons with the sticky mixture of paper, water, and flour to make baskets, masks and various animals (mostly pigs).

I happened to have a penny in my pocket and took it out and looked at it. I began to fashion a head. Next came the body covered with a long overcoat and pants. I finished my creation with shoes. Oddly, the shoes were the hardest part. I had created a two foot high, paper mache Abraham Lincoln. It was incredible. At least, I thought so. Many of my classmates did too.

But what did my art teacher think?

She made one little comment, a comment that changed how I have thought about myself since she made her comment. She said, "Steve, you are very creative.” Who in your life made a little comment that made all the difference in your life?

Notice that her comment was not so much about my work but more about me as a person.

From that day on I thought of myself as a creative person. Years later in college, when professors handed back the various papers that I had to write, I never cared much about the grade. What I looked for was the comment, "Very creative.”

Was I born creative? Maybe. Did I know it before my teacher told me? No way.

What do you do well? How do you know that you do it well? How do the people close to you know what they do well? When is the last time you told your son or daughter, spouse or friend that you see something good in them?

Most of us are excellent at finding fault with those around us. And when we communicate what we have found, we do so "for their own good.”

But is this really what people need? To be told where they fall short?

Isn't it often true that if you don't tell someone their fault, someone else will. There are people lined up to point out mistakes.

But who is going to say something positive? Once in awhile, people need to know what they are doing right.

If you say something positive on a repeated basis to someone, you will not only build that person up, but you will also develop a strong, positive relationship with that person.

So Paul, before getting into the tricky problem of what to do with Onesimus, makes sure that he communicates the positive things he has heard about Philemon. Paul builds up Philemon so that Philemon is feeling positive about himself, and in the process Paul creates a positive relationship with Philemon.

Paul says positive things to Philemon in two particular areas: Philemon's faith in God and his love for people.

God and people.

Twenty years ago a friend of mine, Henry Reyenga, and I were trying to come up with a new way to introduce Christianity to someone. We came up with this question: What is your spiritual dream? How would you answer this question?

We asked it of everyone we met. We asked it everywhere we went. Since we were working for the Bible League International at the time, "everywhere we went” was all around the world.

Interestingly, no matter who we asked or where we asked it, everyone gave the same answer.

Some said their dream was to find the truth, others to be one with nature, many to have a great marriage or family, and one guy told me he wanted to be one with whales.

Now these sound like many different answers, but they all fall into two categories:
God and people. The same two categories Paul commented on regarding Philemon. It would seem that people's spiritual dream (their ultimate dream) has to do with a connection to...

God and people. Is this true of your spiritual dream as well?

You are still wondering about the guy who wanted to be one with the whales, aren't you?

Think about it. A person who wishes to be one with the whales more than likely believes in the whole "god is in everything and everything is a part of god” New Age way of seeing things. So the "I want to one with the whales” comment is just another way of saying, "I want to be one with God.” What that means is that the whale lover and I have the same dream - to connect with God. We just disagree on who that God is.

So, in my opinion, all people are born with a dream, a desire to connect in a meaningful way to a god of some sort and the people around them.

But, though the dream is there, many are frustrated in realizing this dream. Why?

Go to Genesis 3. Though Adam and Eve lack nothing living in a garden paradise, we see them disobeying God by doing what was forbidden. The result: They are ashamed of their nakedness and hide from each other. And when God comes around they, in fear and guilt, hide from Him.

They hide from God and people.

There it is again, our spiritual dream to connect with God and people. But sin makes us feel small, ashamed, lacking, imperfect, guilty and sends us into hiding from God and the people around us. What we want is the very thing from which we hide. Where in your life are you hiding from people and/or God?

By the way, what we want, the dream of connecting in a meaningful way to God and people, is what God wants for us and even commands of us.

The Ten Commandments. Some see these as burdens, a bunch of do's and don'ts. But if you step back and take a broad view of them, you will discover they are nothing more than a prescription for the spiritual dream we all seek. What was that again? To connect in a meaningful way with God and people.

Take a look at the first four commandments. Each of them gives us insight into how to better relate to God. The next six commandments are how to have a healthy relationship with the people around us.

So, wonder of wonders, God only commands what we already want.

But sin - and the shame, guilt, and the brokenness that sin causes - keeps us hiding from the dream we seek.

Jesus' death and resurrection take us from hiding and reconcile us to God and people.

Paul, as he communicates something positive about Philemon, chooses these two areas:

1. Philemon's faith in God, and

2. The good he has done with people.

In other words, Paul is saying, "Philemon, I have heard from others that you are well on your way to your spiritual dream. How blessed you are.”

If you want to build a positive relationship with someone, start the process by recognizing and communicating to this "someone” how God, because of the death and resurrection of Jesus and through the power of the Holy Spirit, is working to help this person fulfill their spiritual dream.

Communicating something positive is probably the most effective thing that I do as a Pastor. I actively look to catch people doing something good. In what areas do I look to accomplish this? In people's relationship with God and other people.

So if, for example, I see a young person who is faithful in their participation in church activities, I will find a moment to say something like, "I noticed you are very serious about God and His church. Keep it up because God ultimately is looking for people like you to carry out His purpose.” Notice this is the God connection.

Or when I see a parent doing all they can to keep their young children in line, I will say, "I see you have your hands full. Parenting is hard, but I've noticed that you do it with consistency and grace. It is not easy to be both strict and forgiving at the same time, but I see you doing it, and I just want to applaud your efforts. And I want you to know that even if you do not see progress day to day, believe me, your efforts will be rewarded.” Notice this is the people connection.

Look for opportunities to say something positive to your spouse, your children, the people at work, at church, and in your neighborhood.


To your spouse: "I know I often take it for granted, but there are times when I am amazed at how well you... manage the household, care for me, make life exciting, take charge and lead, put God first in everything, organize our lives, etc.”

To your kids: "I know I spend a lot of time telling you what to do and often give you the impression that you never do things quite right, but to tell you the truth, you are better at... school work, sports, concern for others, personal walk with God, etc... than I was at your age.”

To your co-workers: "Have I ever said I like working with you? You are... fun to work with, a team player, good at solving problems, etc.”

A few suggestions on how to do this:

When you want to make an impact by communicating something positive, do so by looking them in the eye. The eye is a window to the heart.

Sometimes words spoken become more personal when accompanied by a physical touch. Maybe a handshake or a pat on the back.

One last tip: When you say something positive, be specific. Don't just say, "You are a great person” or "I like working with you” or "You are gifted and talented.” Tell them why you think they are a great person, why you like working with them, and why you believe they are gifted and talented.


How does giving positive feedback help the person receiving it?

What does it do for the person giving it?

What does it do for the relationship between the two?

Paul is challenging Timothy in these verses: 1 Timothy 4:12Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and teaching. Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.

What positive things is Paul saying about Timothy if you read between the lines?

How is giving people responsibility a way of communicating something positive to them?

With whom do you have a hard time communicating something positive? Why?

When was the last time someone said something positive about you? How did it make you feel?

Last modified: Monday, August 13, 2018, 9:07 AM