One of the very first verses I ever memorized in the Bible was James 1:19, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” This is because James was providing so much wisdom in this one little verse, to me. Especially in today’s world that seems so self-absorbed. It is so easy for people to voice their opinions about everything, as well as start fights with those of opposing opinions, never listening to the reason behind their views. And, if I may be honest, there are times when we may do the same. This is why I memorized this verse. It is a self-reflection on how I interact with others. Something we all should do now and then.
Quick to Listen
I am in school to become a correctional counselor. I have learned all kinds of methods for helping treat all kinds of criminals and the issues they have that led them to crime. There are many different theories and styles of treatment for each individual, but there is one thing that is common between them all: listening. It does not matter if the situation calls for active listening, reflective listening, or empathetic listening. And honestly, this should be something to incorporate in our everyday lives, with everyone we affiliate with.
Are other’s viewpoints and ideas being heard? Are you taking the time to hear them out? It is important to meet others where they are at, especially when it comes to sharing the Good News. When engaging another in conversation, they tend to share more when they feel they are being heard. I have learned that we must leave room for others to talk, because when we talk too much and listen too little, others may feel that we believe our viewpoints and ideas are more important than theirs.
Slow to Speak
When we do speak, it is important to think before we speak, as:
“The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue is also a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” (James 3:5-6).
Our words are like a fire in that, once said, it cannot be controlled or taken back. We only have control over ourselves and cannot control how others will react to what we say. And yeah, the same goes for the individual talking to us. There may be times when what others say to us will hurt us, and there may be times when what others say to us will leave a scar, even when they do apologize for it afterward. This is why it is so important to keep our emotions in check, to have some self-control because we can hurt others too. The holy spirit helps us with that. With help, we can monitor and filter what we say to others, even when they do not do the same to us.
Slow to Become Angry
When others say hurtful things to us, it may hurt our self-esteem. This can lead us to become angry and try to retaliate. But if there is one thing I learned; it is that there are different types of anger. The anger that stems from a hurt ego, that wants to retaliate and become defensive, is a selfish type of anger. Essentially, with this anger, we are putting ourselves first. We are putting importance on ourselves over the other person. This is the anger I think James was talking about being slow with because it does not produce the righteousness that God desires (James 1:20). We are to put others before ourselves. This does not happen when we spew out hurtful words towards others because our egos are bruised. That will only push the other individual further away, especially if it is an individual that does not know God. With that being said, the other type of anger is righteous anger. This anger is the act of becoming angry because others are being hurt, whether through injustice or sin. This reminds me of the saying, “We hate the sin because we love the sinner.” In my eyes, this anger is okay for it is righteous.
There was this one time an individual attacked me and my faith. I was delusional, and a part of a “cult” according to this person. But do you know what I did? I thought of James 1:19 and then I asked why they felt the way they did. I listened to them, not speaking much (except to ask open-ended questions to get more information out of them), and I did not retaliate or become defensive though I was very upset, especially when they would bash God (that’s when I would say things like, “Well that is what you believe”, “This is what I have learned and believe…” and “Why do you say and believe that?”). This individual was raised with Christianity being forced upon them, and they have grown to dislike it. They expected that all Christians were like that, forcing their beliefs on others. This individual loved attacking them to prove that false belief. And sadly, a lot of Christians fell for it. When this individual would attack a Christian and their belief in God, trying to disprove Him, the Christian would retaliate and “shove” their beliefs on the individual, “This is why you are wrong…” I have learned all this by talking to this individual. This is what they told me. But guess what? At the end of my conversation with this individual, they thanked me, and now and then they will ask me something about my faith in God. Some of which are pretty tough questions if I do say so myself, but I see this as a good sign. One would not ask if they were not curious. So, when you have the chance, reflect on your conversations. Think about James 1:19, and where your future interactions could be different, it could be for the better!