My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. (James 1:19-20)
God gives us a pattern of how to handle issues in life, quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. However, for most of us we have it completely out of order. We are quick to anger, even quicker to speak and slow to listen. Emotion comes first, reaction follows right behind and rational thought is a slow third. This is the natural easy way to handle problems but it doesn’t typically yield very good results. Emotions are volatile and are set off easily after a rough day or week.
Last week I had a three day training course on “Crisis Intervention” and one of the things the instructor continued to emphasize was the fact when emotions get high, cognitive thinking goes down. She said to picture it as a see-saw, as the one side is raised the other drops. This is why when people are emotional, it is hard to get them to think clearly or even function with common sense. However our natural tendency is to allow our emotions to overrule our thinking.
While God’s pattern isn’t easy, and it takes practice to implement, it certainly produces the best results. His pattern is like this: Gather the information so you can think rationally (quick to listen). After thinking through it carefully, act on what you know, not what you perceive (be slow to speak). Then let the emotions follow the thought and action (be slow to anger).
In other words the saying, “Don’t put your mouth in motion until your brain is in gear!”, is a great piece of advice. If we do not adhere to this advice, it usually leads to us owing someone an apology. The bad thing is even when we apologize for the words said, they are still out there. Do you realize once you say something, even though you may apologize for it your words are floating around for all eternity. It is somewhat like driving nails into a fence, you can pull the nails out but the holes are still there. The same is true when our words are said in anger. We can apologize but the hurt still lingers.
The best thing to do is take James advice, be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. It is certainly a challenge but definitely one worth accepting.