Quick to Listen, Slow to Speak

I’m not sure how many times I’d repeated in my head (or deserved to have someone say to me), “quick to listen, slow to speak.” This of course is part of James 1:19 and is a simple directive, b it sure is hard. We all want to be heard. We’re tempted to think ourselves much smarter than we truly are and we want to give our two cents. But we don’t stop there, adding additional cents and finding ourselves in debt in the conversation. Having given so much speech, we owe the other person some time of listening.

Tell me if these situations are familiar to you–either as the victim or perpetrator:

  • One person in a conversation does not seem to be really listening, probably because he uses the time when the other person is talking only to think about what he’ll say next.
  • A person uses the story of another merely as a platform to tell another story that she thinks is much greater than the first.
  • Someone cuts you off to either agree, disagree, or correct the opinion that he actually did not hear since he interrupted you in the first place.
  • You have a friend who loves to tell you all about what is going on in her life, but has no time to listen to you.
  • You put your foot in your mouth because you jumped to conclusions without waiting for all the facts or because you didn’t wait for someone to finish.

It is so easy for us to fall into these traps. Embarrassingly, it is easy to complain when someone else does it, but then go off and do those very same things. But we need to evaluate ourselves, be humble in our relationships and conversations, and follow this command. The text goes on to say we should be “slow to anger” and being a person with patience who is slow to speak is key. I find it hard to imagine a hothead–someone quick to anger–as also someone who is a great listener and very humble.

On the flip side, don’t you find yourself drawn to people who listen to you? Who are patient as you speak and ask you questions? This can be a great witness for Christians to their neighbors, especially in a frantic world that is hurried and where we’re having more online relationships or transactional relationships. If you are one who listens, you’ll be taking a step to show the love and care God has for us to someone who may really need it.

This is also a lesson we need to make sure to apply to those God has placed close to us, those about whom we care most. That group is often one that sadly gets our worst, along with our best, since we see them so much. We can be so sure we already know them well enough, so we jump to conclusions, cut them off, or tune out. But we need to slow down.

If you need to be quick, be quick to listen. Give yourself time to really hear people. Take time to think. Then be slow to respond.

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