Count to 10
Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.
It’s helpful that James tells us to “understand this” progression of behaviors. If we do the opposite and say the first thing that flies into our heads without listening, we’ll get mad. “Quick to listen” means do that the most and do it first. Then, we’d naturally be “slow to speak” if we’re listening first.
But I like to talk. I talk so much I’ve become an interrupter. Listening does require a lot of waiting, and I don’t like waiting as much as I like talking. And anger just kind of happens, doesn’t it? You either are or you aren’t. How is it possible to slow down something that is happening to you on the inside? Count to 10?
Yes. Count to 10 for listening, speaking, and angering. Making a personal policy of letting someone finish what they’re saying, including my 9 year old, and taking a few seconds to absorb it would make me a “quick” listener. Carefully considering something I’m getting ready to say for about 10 seconds before I say it might actually keep a lot of accidental and regrettable things from ever being said. And everyone knows to count ten to calm down.
Here’s why I do NOT want to progress towards anger. “Human anger doesn’t produce the righteousness God desires.” (See James 1:20) My anger doesn’t do any good; it will not accomplish anything. It will neither be helpful nor understood.
God isn’t mad at me (Romans 2:5); he is listening to my prayers (Proverbs 15:29) and my frustrations as well, and he will tell me what to do about them (Psalm 16:7). Can’t I imitate him today by carefully listening, speaking helpful words and not getting mad at broken and imperfect people just like me?
Help me to be a good listener, to be a patient speaker, and to be a person who counts 10 and doesn’t blow up all the time. Help me to point my kids towards you not only by what I say to them but entirely by what I do. Help me to just be quieter in every way, pay attention, and keep my opinions to myself. Help me promote peace in these three ways today. I love you and thank you that you listen to me, you speak helpful words to me and you’re not mad at me. And I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.