2020 has been a year that many of us have endured with much hardship and loss. We are in the middle of a pandemic and an outcry for social justice and change. In the world today, anger surrounds us and at times life can feel overwhelming. With all that we are facing, sometimes it is easy to be offended, and at other times it can be difficult not to lash out at others. James understood the plight of the believer and the hardships that we would endure. In James 1:19, he encourages us not only to be quick to listen and slow to speak, but also to be slow to anger. James believes that speaking and anger are connected because listening is most difficult when we are angry. When triggered, anger is the primary reason we are slow to listen and quick to speak in more situations than not. James gives this warning because he recognizes that circumstances and trials introduce daily possibilities for conflicts.
Challenges make us slow to listen and quick to speak and more than likely, when we are swift to speak, we speak out of anger. Thoughtless words and hot-headed tempers can create a fire that will damage people, their relationships, ministries, and our witness when we are quick to argue our positions, views, opinions, and push our own agendas. Many Scriptures warn of the toxic words that can be venom from our lips when we react in frustration or anger. Relationships come with struggles, and disagreements can be opportunities for testing our faith (1 Pet. 1:7; Rom. 5:3-5), but the integrity of relationship that James is calling for is a discipline that will cause us to delay our anger and the need to defend our views and judge others, and instead, concentrate on listening. When we listen to each other, we create an armor against division.
Being slow to anger means that my primary goal is listening and fully hearing, not so I may respond, but so that I may seek to understand the other side of the conflict.
Today when you pray, ask God to search your heart and pray Psalm 139:23-24.
Dear Lord, I know that at times I have been slow to listen and quick to speak, and because I was quick to speak, instead of showing compassion and listening, I have spoken out of anger. Forgive me for allowing my anger to override your Word. Help me discipline my words and concentrate on listening. In Jesus Name, I pray, amen!