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Action Commandments for Every Believer 4: Be Quick to Listen and Slow to Speak

Action Commandments for Every Believer Day 4 – Be Quick to Listen and Slow to Speak

Know this, my beloved brothers; let every person by quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. (James 1:19, ESV) 

My oldest daughter, Lexi, works at a local restaurant. Every day she works, she comes home and regales us with stories from her shift. Last night, she had a doozy for us! A table of rowdy, middle-aged ladies caused quite the scene. When Lexi brought their food to them, one of the women decided to try to tug the plate away from her while she was holding a couple of other plates. I guess she wasn’t getting that plate of fries fast enough! Predictably, the plate got off balance, and the little cup of creamy garlic dipping sauce plopped right on her lap. She exploded in anger, loudly proclaiming how everything was Lexi’s fault. Her manager came over and dealt with the entitled woman, trying to calm her down. She wouldn’t listen and demanded all sorts of stuff. She finally got calm again, and the situation was defused, but not before she made a total fool of herself and gave an example to my daughter of how a Christian should not act! The woman didn’t check a single box on the checklist James gives us! She was quick to anger, quick to speak, and slow to hear. It’s fun to call out other people when they do it because it takes the focus off the fact that I, a loudmouth constantly struggling with his filter, do it all too often. Yikes!

Many stereotypes exist for a reason—like the one about men listening only because they’re formulating a response. It’s quite accurate! But that’s not being “quick to hear.” What does James mean by that? He probably means, primarily, that we should find it much easier to listen than to speak. After all, we have two ears and only one mouth! What does that look like? I believe it takes on a couple of different ideas. First (and foremost), we need to be listeners to the guiding principles of God’s Word. How easy it is to quickly give instruction without consulting His Word. How easy it is to trust our own instinct first, and only turn to Him when we fall flat on our face. (Those are pretty common for this guy.) We must know God’s Word and listen to His guidance. But we also need to be listeners to other people. This is also an issue for many of us. My wife is a fantastic listener, which is why many people turn to her when they are having problems. She actually listens without judgment or without formulating a pat answer. Most times, that’s what people really need—someone to sit with them and listen while they pour out their heart. I admit that this is a great challenge for me; I know I need to do better. I need to be more like my wife!

Don’t you agree that the other two things sort of go hand in hand? If I’m angry, I’m probably going to run my mouth about it. So if I’m not so easily incensed, then maybe I won’t be so quick to say words that I can’t take back. We all know it’s true, but it doesn’t stop us from saying words we later regret. As soon as we say them, we can’t cram the words back into our mouths. They’ve been heard, and the damage has been done. “I didn’t mean to say it” doesn’t alleviate the situation. It’s just the beginning of a long road to trying to heal the hurt that our words caused. Why do we say them? Because we’re angry, and that very often leads to us being very quick to speak.

These are all action statements; they won’t passively happen. They require effort. I must consciously listen, decide to keep quiet, and tame my anger. Imagine how much different our lives would be if we followed all three of these statements! I would have to apologize less, that’s for sure! It would also lead to deeper, more meaningful friendships. As is often the case in life, these actions are difficult but very rewarding. Why not put the effort needed into doing what James says, then?

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