“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…” James 1:19
Every living being communicates. The question is: do we communicate effectively. James in his epistles lays out three aspects of communication that we do well to pay attention: listening, speaking and expressing our feelings.
We all know the importance of expressing our thoughts clearly. Putting our ideas and intentions intelligibly and clearly into words so that others can understand us is crucial in human communication. While some of us may have difficulties in expressing ourselves effectively, the problem most of us face is not speaking but listening. Communication is neither a monologue or dual-logue. but a dialogue. In Greek, the word “dia” means to “get through”. Communication as a dialogue means that our message has to get through to the other party and theirs to us. That is why listening is equally, if not even more important than speaking in communication. In his famous prayer, St. Francis of Assisi asked God to help him “seek first to understand, then to be understood.” This principle is the key to effective interpersonal communication. Similarly, the Apostle James exhorts us to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Our posture in communication should always be to listen in order to understand our conversation partner.
But there is a third aspect of communication that we must not neglect. Communication is not merely about delivery and receiving of ideas, thoughts and intentions. Communication is also about expressing our emotions and feelings. While it is true that bottling up our emotions is unhealthy, we have no right to vent our anger, irritation, frustration or any negative emotion inappropriately and irresponsibly. James wisely pointed out that we should be “slow to become angry” – to first process it before appropriately expressing how we are feeling. Without restraint, unprocessed anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires (v20). So may we strive to be effective communicators – quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.
Rev. David Lee