Give Others the Gift of Being Slow to Speak

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. (James 1:19)

Listen. Wait. Respond.

How many of our conflicts would dissolve or never even materialize if we:

  • Listened to really understand a person’s concern or complaint,
  • Waited... till our typically wrong initial impulse passed, till we’ve prayed, till we’ve asked clarifying questions,
  • And then responded with patience, graciousness, honesty, clarity, and, if possible, brevity?

Full disclosure: I’m writing mainly to myself here. But if you, like me, tend to be slow to hear, quick to speak, and quick to impatience, come and exhort yourself with me.

Listen. A quickness to listen is a mark of humility, something I do when I consider someone else more significant than myself (Philippians 2:3). Listening to understand before I respond is a sign that I am not wise in my own eyes (Proverbs 12:15), not leaning on my own understanding (Proverbs 3:6). I really want to grow in this grace.

Father, whatever it takes make me humble so that I am quick to hear others.

Wait. Love is patient (1 Corinthians 13:4). So waiting before I respond to a concern or complaint—being slow to speak—is often a way God calls me to love others, even if they don’t expect or want me to wait. Prudently restraining my lips (Proverbs 10:19) allows me to get past my initial impulse (which is frequently wrong), to ask God for wisdom and discernment, and to ask clarifying questions that often don’t come in the heat of the first moment. I need to grow in this grace too.

Father, whatever it takes teach me to love so that I am slow to speak in a moment of tension.

Respond. “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (Proverbs 16:24). When I speak, it is so important that my words “give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29). Gracious words are sometimes tender and sometimes tough (Proverbs 27:6), but they are always measured, clear, honest, and if possible (a struggle for me) concise (Proverbs 10:19). They always aim for truthful restoration and agreement (2 Corinthians 13:11).

Father, whatever it takes help me respond to discord with gracious words.

Being quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry is very hard. James goes so far as to say, “no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8). We know what he means.

But thank God that “what is impossible with man is possible with God” (Luke 18:27). God will provide us an escape from temptation if we want it (1 Corinthians 10:13).

So as we face conflicts today, if we listen, wait, and respond in the spirit of James 1:19, we will resist the devil (James 4:6) and may participate with Jesus in the destruction of the devil’s works (1 John 3:8) by what we don’t say.