James 1:19 (NIV) Listening and Doing
19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…
When programming a phone number with and extension into a cell phone the “;” is a two second pause which allows the phone number to be dialed and then pause for you to signal when to dial the extension. If you don’t enter the number this way, the phone system gets confused and tells you that you have dialed a non-working number. So it is that pause that makes everything work better or even work at all. How about that? A little pause for the system to dial the number makes the call go through.
I wonder if life isn’t just like that. I wonder if a little pause before responding would not help the “call” go through. Communication seems to be the most difficult part of relationships. People have different communication styles and words have different meaning depending on how they are used and their tone. Since relationships are the most important things in life, shouldn’t we work toward improving them through better communication? James tells us to be quick to listen. If you immediately gave someone your full attention when they approached you, would that make them feel important to you? If you listened carefully, how would that make them feel? Would these feelings improve relationships? The answer is yes! How do you listen?
James goes on to say you should be slow to speak. Does that meeeaan thaaaat yoooouuu shoooouuuuld stretch out your words? Nah! It means you should listen to learn and not listen preparing to offer a rebuttal. Really listen! What are the words but also, what is the thought behind those words? Why did this person come to you? Do they have needs you could address? Are they upset and why? If you could just insert a “;” into the response to allow you to think through the reason for the conversation, would you be able to give a better response? When you listen, do you listen to gain understanding or to form a reply? Stephen Covey said “seek first to understand; then to be understood.” No one will fault you for saying “I need to think about that. Can I get back to you?”
Finally, James goes on to say be slow to become angry. Are you defensive in your conversations? When someone asks, “Did you leave this here?”, do you bite their head off for accusing you? I have a tendency to use an accusatory tone when asking that type of question which makes others defensive. How could you better ask a question? Maybe, “I was wondering how this item got here? Do you know?” What was the purpose of the question? Did you want the person that left the item to know where it is usually kept so they can put it away next time? Anger clouds thinking. It makes us react rather than respond. It damages relationships. Since all of life is about relationships, shouldn’t we try our best to build up rather than tear down?
I have a document that contains “;.;’ (Semicolons) in the format of a 3×5 card. Write to me and request the document. Then, print them out, cut them apart and place them in locations to help you to remember to pause. The next time you have conversation with someone, why not try a short pause before responding? It may just improve that relationship! This won’t be easy but keep trying.
Lord, help us to keep trying! Give us the patience to be slow to respond so there is time for You to give us the right words. May Your Spirit guide us to build others up through our conversation. May our speech bring glory to You and edify those who hear. In Your name we pray!