Of all of the instructions found in scripture, I think that James 1:19 has got to be one of the most difficult to live out every day. It’s a difficult verse, not because it’s difficult to read, but because it’s difficult to apply. And it’s difficult to apply because it requires us to do something we don’t want to naturally do. It tells us to be quick to listen and slow to respond, when what we want to do is be slow to listen and quick to respond. At least, that’s true for me and I assume that it is the same for you if you have the same affliction I have…the human condition.
The first thing James instructs us to do is be quick to listen. If we are quick to listen we have a fighting chance to understand the other person’s point of view. But, most of us don’t listen to understand, we listen while we wait for our turn to speak. When we do that we don’t give ourselves fully to the other person because we are formulating our response. So at best we are half listening.
When we listen to respond rather than listen to understand, we make slow to speak and slow to get angry very difficult. Listening, really listening, is one of the best things we can do relationally. It sounds so simple, yet it is so profound.
James 1:19 is a great relational tool. It is as true for parenting as it is in any other relationship. It is a practical way to help us have empathy for our kids. Listening to understand them and to understand where they are is what empathy is. It keeps our anger (no matter how justified it seems) in check. Being quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry gives our kids the response they need. It encourages them to share their feelings because we make them feel safe when we are quick to listen and slow to respond. It tells them that their feelings matter and when our kids come to understand that their feelings matter they learn to trust us.
Lord, thank you for loving me where I am and for being slow to get angry with me. Please help me be the kind of parent that my kids need me to be. I want them to feel safe and I want them to trust me. I know that being quick to listen is a good place to start.
In Jesus name, Amen
“You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” – James 1:19 (NLT)
Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.