James 1:19-20.Oh, how many difficulties, wars, divorces, and broken relationships could have been avoided if these verses had been written on everyone's heart. We each could read this every single day, and still not get it right. Let's look at each part of the verse.
"My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." NIV
"quick to listen" - How many times do we really listen when someone is talking to us? I would adventure not real often. Most of the time we are formulating in our mind what we will say next. We just don't seem to take enough time to really listen to what people are saying - both verbally and non-verbally. What are the nuances of their speech, word choice, body language? Are we just hearing words or discerning meaning? Communication takes time and time is precious. If this person is giving up time to speak to me, then I need to give them time and really listen to what they have have to say with attentiveness and respect. I don't have to agree with them to listen. I don't have to like what they are saying or even be interested in the topic. But to show them love as a human being, I need to honor them with my attention. Besides, you may be amazed at what you will learn.
"slow to speak" - Have you ever watched a wise elderly person. They never speak quickly. They choose their words very carefully and seem to always say something profound with each breath. That is what I am always striving for and seem to so often miss. I have a friend who before she answers her phone, she will pray for the person on the other end. We should take that approach before every conversation we have. "Lord, bless this person and may I speak wisdom and truth to them." Thinking through our words; letting the Father guide our conversations. Responding in love, not reacting in haste or anger. Taking time to breathe and speak from a place of peace rather than panic. Maybe in that pause realizing we must remain quiet.
"slow to become angry" - This is probably the toughest one of all three. Our first inclination and evidence of our sinful nature rearing its ugly head is lashing out at someone who is attacking us. Or maybe its because they are inconveniencing us. No matter what, anger usually is based in selfishness. You are doing or saying something I don't like, so I have a right to retaliate because I'm being hurt; I'm being inconvenienced; I'm not happy; I'm; I'm; I'm.
So many of our outbursts of anger could be quashed if we took time to listen and were slow to speak. It's all about slowing down in love. To truly express love to our fellow man, we must give them our time. Time to hear what they have to say -- not just in words -- but in meaning and heart. Time to speak truth and wisdom back to them -- guiding them in love. And time to save our anger for the things God would be angry about, not just exploding at every inconvenience to me. Then we will be living the righteous life that God desires.
- Study how Jesus responds in difference situations. His words are never wasted and His anger is reserved for very specific situations.
- Work really hard today to listen intently. What are people really saying to you?
- Pray before each conversation. It doesn't have to be a long prayer; simply commit your words to the Lord and ask for His guidance.
- Check your anger. Before getting angry, stop and complete the first two directives -- quick to listen, slow to speak. Take time, in love, to understand the other person before spewing venom all over them. There may be hidden meanings behind their actions or words that you need to hear and understand.