You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger. (James 1:19)
Have you ever been in a conversation with a group of people and found it hard to get a word in edgewise? Everyone is talking at once and the conversation is moving so fast that by the time you wedge your way in, what you want to say is irrelevant and you are pretty sure no one is listening to what anyone is saying anyway.
Welcome to the modern world.
Whether we are trying to prove our point or prove how smart we are, or we just like the sound of our own voice, often we do the opposite of what the Letter of James recommends. Often, we are quick to speak, slow to listen. The result seems to be a lot of anger.
Perhaps we should try the advice found in James. If we are quick to listen and slow to speak, we might hear wisdom we have never thought of before.
If we listen, we might hear the pain and struggle in the voice of another. Then our words when we do speak can do more good than harm.
If we allow ourselves a moment of silence before words go pouring out of our mouths, we might stop ourselves from saying something we may later regret.
If we are quick to listen and slow to speak, God’s Spirit might have room to enter the space between us and help us to not just listen, but really hear one another. And when we really hear one another, we might find that we are more likely to be slow to anger.
Good listening takes practice. If we work at it, we may even hear God’s voice speaking into our conversations, overcoming the walls of words we often put up between us. Be quick to listen, and slow to speak.