James 1:19 says, “Understand this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Let everyone be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak [a speaker of carefully chosen words and], slow to anger [patient, reflective, forgiving]” (AMP). Chances are that you’re doing well in at least one of these areas, but struggle at being good in all three. I’m not always quick to listen. I like to guess where you’re going with something and get to your conclusion before you do. The problem with that is when we’re not quick to listen, we’re telling the other person that we don’t value them enough. Being quick to listen is important for us as believers because we need to listen to what God’s Word and the Holy Spirit have to say as well, and for the same reason.
Being slow to speak can be difficult, especially if we don’t have much of a filter between what we think and what we say. Proverbs 17:28 says, “Even a [callous, arrogant] fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; When he closes his lips he is regarded as sensible (prudent, discreet) and a man of understanding.” Being slow to speak changes how people perceive us. It’s tough to do, especially when we’re the type who listens in order to respond rather than to understand. Being slow to speak also gives us the opportunity to listen more. Before responding, ask yourself if that really needs to be said and if it edifies or builds up the listener.
Finally, being slow to get angry can be tough, especially when we view people through a filter of pains from our past. When we go from a 3 to a 10 quickly, we say and do things we later regret. This one can be difficult to learn, but it starts by getting better at the first two. When I listen well, and give the other person the opportunity to say everything and listen with the intent of understanding, with a patient, reflective and forgiving heart, anger slows down. The Holy Spirit is at work in each of working to produce these three things in each of us. If you’re not good at all three, don’t despair. Ask God to help you so that you can be a better representation of Him. We’re all under construction and have areas God is working on. Spiritual maturity comes from allowing the Holy Spirit to daily help us get a little bit better at following Him.