My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
Communication that Values Relationships
A recent article in a business magazine highlighted the use of a “ten-second rule” for more effective communication. The author noted that taking a long breath or two before responding can defuse a heated conversation. The momentary break gives everyone in the room a chance to refocus on relationships rather than disagreement.
This advice is not only good modern business practice, but it also reflects ancient wisdom found in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. When James counseled his readers to be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry,” he was echoing thoughts collected hundreds of years earlier in the book of Proverbs.
Of course, all too often, we have failed to heed such advice. Our sinful pride, selfishness, and short tempers frequently can get the best of us, and instead of putting the needs of others ahead of our own, we respond in anger. We may feel the urge to win the argument or get our own way at any cost, even at the expense of friendships and other important relationships.
How comforting to know that God does not act as we do! The Bible tells us that God is slow to anger, even though we have given him so many reasons to be angry with us. And he is quick to listen to and answer our prayers, especially when we are asking for forgiveness. His Son, Jesus, perfectly demonstrated that same attitude throughout his earthly life, patiently bearing with sinners and humbly paying the price for our sharp tongues and short tempers.
Now we strive to live in a way that reflects Christ’s love for us and our gratitude for him. That includes making sure that we value people and our relationships with them more than we value winning arguments against them. Practice good communication habits, but even more so, practice imitating Christ’s humility and patient love for others, just as he has loved and forgiven you.
Lord Jesus, forgive me for acting and speaking in anger rather than love. Help me to build up others through what I say and how I say it. Amen.