I was reading in the book of James this week, coming across that familiar verse in 1:19, “Understanding this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” The 17th century theologian John Trapp said, “But hath not Nature taught us the same that the apostle here doth, by giving us two ears, and those open; and but one tongue, and that hedged in with teeth and lips?”
Succumbing to the emotion of anger, speaking before we think, never does any of us any good. It raises blood pressure, induces unhealthy stress, and if not kept under harness, can bring about unwise, even foolish behavior accompanied by words that cannot be taken back. I do like John Trapp’s observation, that God gave us two hears but only one tongue, and that hidden away by teeth and lips, a valuable reminder of the power of our words. Words can be soothing or vexing. They can uplift or tear down. They can be accusing or forgiving. We are often defined by our words.
Achieving the goal of “being slow to get angry,” can only be accomplished when we are first, “quick to listen.” Listening is an art that gets better with practice. When we become angry, and there are righteous reasons for anger, we must be certain to maintain control of that anger rather than allowing anger to control us. When the latter happens, we lose power over ourselves, leaving ourselves open to attack of temptation toward ungodliness. We certainly don’t want that to happen! We are doomed to much regret when we follow any ungodly path.
Our minds are a minefield for the enemy to gain dominance over our words and actions through anger; therefore, it is essential to control all irritation, refusing to allow fury to sit on the throne of untamed emotions. We do this by immediately coming to our heavenly Father, telling Him all about the grievance we have, and then — most important! — listen to Him. Sit or kneel in quietness before Him. Tell Him you want to hear Him speak. He will. In the depths of your heart you will hear His whispers of guidance. You will receive His strength and wisdom. Only when we have first been quick to listen, can we ever accomplish the sometimes daunting task to — be slow to speak and slow to anger.