The art of listening
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. James 1:19-20 NLT
The ability to speak clearly and eloquently is what one strives to achieve. An individual having such ability is admired and receives acclamation. Yet, the Bible promotes listening rather than speaking. This is what James is challenging his readers to do. Listening is an art that is difficult to master. The reason is because the person who strives to develop listening ability has to learn how to be disciplined being attentive to the one speaking. Listening also means having a sincere interest in the person who is speaking. Listening involves closing the mouth, opening the ears, and having an attentive heart. The objective of the person who is intently listening is to arrive to a sufficient solution that facilitates loving relationship. This is why God cautions us to be “slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” We have to be fully aware of the words that come out from our mouth. James, from the text, is echoing what the Lord Jesus Christ said: “And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you” (Matthew 12:36-37). Silence at times is wiser than speaking too much. “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut” (Proverbs 10:19). “Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent” (Proverbs 17:28). James also addressed the matter about anger. When we are angry the tendency is to spout careless words. Our “anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.” Harboring anger affects how we live the Christian life. Misplaced anger can also result to a loss of opportunity in sharing the message of salvation. When our hearts are in tune with God and His Word, we grow in our ability to listen. We process things through using the filter provided to us by God through the Holy Spirit, thus we choose the words to say and will not allow anger to rule our hearts. When we lose our composure and instead of saying words that edify, we create dissension. “An angry person starts fights; a hot-tempered person commits all kinds of sin” (Proverbs 29:22). Let us be careful of the things we put in our hearts for “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh” (Matthew 12:34 KJV).