by Terri Clark @TerriClarkTCM
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. James 1:19 NLT
My daughter’s exaggerated sigh, followed with, “Never mind, you’re not listening,” left me knowing I had done it again. I actually thought I was hearing her. But I have a bad habit of listening only until I think I know what someone is saying, and then my ears shut off and my tongue takes over. Even while someone is still talking. I’ve done it to my daughter, my husband, and just about anyone with whom I’ve had a conversation.
I know it’s rude, and it makes whoever is talking to me feel like I don’t care about them. It communicates, “What you’re saying isn’t as important as what I have to say.” I really don’t feel that way, yet I am guilty of talking over people more often than I care to admit.
I’m working on it, but evidently not hard enough, because this morning, as I was reading my Bible, James 1:19 (NLT) hit me right between the eyes. “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” It was as if the words, “quick to listen, slow to speak”, were lit up like flashing neon lights.
James goes on to talk about the importance of “hearing” God’s Word and then “doing” what it says. But that process cannot begin until we keep our mouths shut and listen.
If I could follow that one verse, it would be such a good thing. Both listening to God and to people require a closed mouth—no matter how important or urgent what we have to say might feel. So often, my quick words get me into trouble. I jump to conclusions and stir up anger. And then later, when I’m trying to clean up the mess I have created, I realize it all could have been avoided had I just kept my mouth shut and heard the rest of what they were trying to tell me.
Please tell me I’m not the only one guilty of this.
Jumping in with our two cents, before hearing someone out, not only devalues what they have to say, but they likely will also feel personally devalued. God’s Word is filled with instruction on how to walk out our faith by treating other people as more important than ourselves, and this is where it begins.
In Solomon’s collection of Proverbs, he teaches the advantages of listening carefully before speaking. If you are like me, and struggle with listening first, they might provide help and encouragement for you.
- “He who has knowledge spares his words,
and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit” (Proverbs 17:27 NKJ).
- “When words are many, sin is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10:19 BSB).
- “Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them” (Proverbs 29:20 NIV)
There is wisdom in remembering to hear before responding. It is a matter of simple respect. You will avoid creating a conflict by misunderstanding. There’s no faster way to make someone feel valued and loved than to listen to them.
About the author: Terri Clark works with women to prepare and equip them to receive God and the blessings He wants to produce in their lives. She began to answer God’s call on her life in 1994 and has since impacted women all over the world with His news of salvation, edification, and healing.
Her book, Fanning the Flame: Reigniting Your Faith in God, identifies and addresses the issues which most affect a believer’s spiritual flame: the busyness of life, Christian service, pride, and worldly temptations. Join her in this pilgrimage and reignite your spiritual lamp with a fresh, empowering faith–a faith that will stand through a time of testing.
Join the conversation: How do you make someone feel heard?