Verse: James 1:19-20
19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

Right – keep your mouth shut and keep your cool.  Lesson over.  We already know this.  A quick meme search will get you both the Dalai Lama and Sun Tzu weighing in on this.  It’s good for you and its good strategy.

Since its straightforward and simple – it’s worth going over again.


There’s a difference between listening and waiting for your turn to talk.  When someone’s doing that to you, you can see it in their eyes.  They can see it in yours.  I’m usually in a hurry and when you tie that in with some natural social anxiety, I frequently respond to bank teller’s asking how I am with “Could I get a checking deposit slip?”  It’s taken some determination and a lot of forethought to get through step one – “I’m fine.  Could I get a checking deposit slip?”  I’m working into the “I’m fine, how is your day?” phase and hope to master it by the time banks get rid of checking deposit slips.


I used to work with a guy (at a church) who we’ll just call “Derek” (mostly because that’s his name).  I’ve never gotten this directly from him, but based on his general behavior, I came to notice a behavior of his and really wondered if he was putting this into practice.  Any time I asked him something there was always a really definitive breath before he responded.  I admired it, because I’m prone to saying something stupid if left to my own devices.  Be it in anger, anxiety, or just a lack of discipline, I can be hurtful, harmful, or just plain embarrassing if I start to run off at the mouth.  It’s a single breath – it buys you 3 seconds, and for as fast as the human brain catches up with the human mouth, that’s practically an eternity.  It’s not much more than three seconds before we regret something we blurted out.

And SLOW to become ANGRY

I’m bad enough at the first two, that I feel at ease mentioning I’m good at this one.  I may be quick to well disguised moderate annoyance, but I am naturally inclined to give every possible benefit of the doubt before I get angry.  If it’s worth getting angry about it can take up to 24 hours before I really build it up.  It drives people in my life a little bit crazy, sometimes.  However, we’re constantly sending half-thought-out, poorly spelled messages through the ether to each other.  We’re telling stories to each other before thinking through the ramifications telling that story might have.

Did the person love you the last time you heard from them?  It’s ten to one odds that they’re not trying to passively, yet aggressively hurt you right now.  If you don’t know how to take what you just read because there are four or five ways to take it – then go with the better way of taking it.  Even if you’re wrong, you’ll likely be better for it.

Look at yourself (these verses made me do it, so you might as well, too) and ask yourself how to slow down and do the next right thing, instead of going off without thinking.

Dear Lord, give me the presence of mind to slow down.  Show me the true meaning of others’ words and teach me to listen for them.  Help me use compassion to hold my anger in check.  Amen.

Note 1: For much more on this topic, look up Ephesians 4 and start in verse 25.  It’s like an expanded section (by Paul instead of James) on this very exact topic.

Note 2: Can you believe I got through this without mentioning the debates, at all?  I can’t.

Author: Chris Simmons