Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. James 1:19
One short verse, three power-packed principles. These three axioms are so simple that most people miss them. Most people do the opposite – they are slow to listen, quick to speak, quick to get angry. But not the wise man or woman! Wise people are quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. Just like Christ was.
Firstly, be quick to hear. The first responsibility of love is listening. People are starved to be heard and understood. If we listen to people, really listen to people with our full attention, those people will feel so loved by us. So simple, yet so powerful.
Paul Tournier once wrote:
“It is impossible to overemphasize the immense need humans have to be really listened to, to be taken seriously, to be understood. No one can develop freely in this world and find the full life without feeling understood by at least one person.
“Listen to all the conversations of our world, between nations as well as those between couples. They are for the most part dialogues of the deaf.”
Secondly, be slow to speak. If we are always talking, then we won’t be listening. And that’s what people need from us, not our words, but our ears. Besides, if we are hasty in our words, it is likely that we will say things we regret.
Alan McGinnis relates an anecdote on the difference between a talker and a listener:
“A young woman was taken to dinner one night by William E. Gladstone, the distinguished British statesman, and the following night by Benjamin Disraeli, his equally distinguished opponent. Asked later what impression these two celebrated men had made on her, she replied thoughtfully: ‘When I left the dining room after sitting next to Mr. Gladstone, I thought he was the cleverest man in England. But after sitting next to Mr. Disraeli, I thought I was the cleverest woman in England.’”
Finally, be slow to anger. Not quick-tempered. Not irritable. Not oversensitive. But slow to anger. Decide that you will not erupt with anger but you will give people the benefit of the doubt. You ask questions to clarify what people mean. You have a long fuse.
This is wisdom. Quick to hear. Slow to speak. Slow to anger.
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