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. James 1: 19 – 20
Scripture constantly amazes me with its truths and practical advice God wants to give us on what we should do and why. =This verse is no exception as we are told by James, the earthly brother of Jesus and a leader of the early church, to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”
He has given us some godly advice in dealing with some of these important issues in life for the people of his day and especially for us in our present time. These are topics we don’t often think about, but they are vitally important for building loving and trusting relationships.
Notice “quick to listen” is listed first in importance. Why is this so difficult for us to do? We are probably all familiar with the old saying that says, “God gave us one mouth and two ears and that should give us a good idea of how much talking we should do compared to listening.”
And apparently that is true because I found this fascinating little tidbit. (Isn’t it amazing what we can find on the web?) “The average human can speak about 150 – 200 words a minute, (obviously some people can defy nature and talk much faster), but a person’s brain is able to listen to about 800 words a minute.”
Apparently, God has designed us in such a way that He encourages us to be slow to speak and swift to hear. How easily we forget!
But it’s also amazing how something will trigger a memory, for this verse reminded me of a lesson I taught years ago on communication skills and being a good listener. (And of course, I found those tips on the site, as well!) Nothing like a refresher course to help us become who God wants us to be.
1. Remove all distractions. (Good one! Ever been frustrated by trying to talk to someone while they are on their I- Phone, watching TV, or reading a book? Indeed frustrating! Give the person your complete attention,)
2. Be present. (Concentrate on really hearing and listening to the speaker rather than thinking of something else.)
3. Wait for person to finish speaking. (How many times are we more focused on how we are going to respond, or we interrupt the speaker, rather than actually listening to the person?)
4. Don’t assume anything. (You may think you know what the person is going to say, but you may not. Listen!)
5. Look for what lies behind the words. (Don’t just listen, but notice facial expressions, tone of voice, body language – What is the person feeling and trying to convey as they speak?)
6. Clarify to ensure you got it. (And so the speaker will know you heard, restate what they said, such as, “So are you telling me that you are really hurt by my comment, or that you are angry at me?)
7. Ask questions. (It shows that you truly want to understand with a question such as, “Why did you say that I don’t care? Why would you think that?”)
Great reminders of the importance of making the person we are listening to understand that we care and truly want to know how they feel. God wants us to love and appreciate each other and be the best we can be. Listening to each other demonstrates that we do!
Also we need to think before we speak and weigh our words. We understand that words once spoken cannot be taken back and that much hurt or misunderstanding can be avoided. We might need to calm ourselves and take a deep breath before overreacting which helps us be “slow to anger”, as well. For we know too that anger interferes with our ability to think rationally. How many people, in a moment of anger, have done something, said something, or made a decision that would affect the entire course of their lives? How much we can regret later those words and things we do out of anger! Our outrage and frustration will never help us achieve loving relationships, and it certainly doesn’t reflect the person God wants us to be.
God commands us to love each other and He even gives us His own timely “tips” for showing us how to love more completely: “Listen, be slow to speak and slow to anger!”
Dear God, help us to show those around us that we care by truly being willing to listen to what they have to say and by trying to understand how they feel. Help us to weigh our words and think before we speak. Help us to use understanding, love, and patience, instead of anger. May we use your Spirit in us to always be more compassionate and loving to those around us by our actions and words. Amen