“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” James 1:19-20. The screen saver on my computer is the Marquee setting with this verse. It’s a good reminder for me because I can forget to listen, be quick to speak or answer an email, and quickly become angry at some irritation of a co-worker or volunteer.
But I do want to live the righteous life that God desires, and so I have provided myself with the frequent screen saver reminder of that my natural reaction to a stressful situation or difficult person will not bring that about. The opposite is also true. Being quick to listen, especially to the Holy Spirit, can bring blessings. Being slow to speak and slow to become angry gives me time to process what has happened and figure out how God would want me to react. And acting or reacting as God would want me to almost always brings about a better result for me and those I work with.
“But what if the other person is really in the wrong?” you ask. That is for God to judge and for Him to deal with that person accordingly. “God does not judge by external appearance.” Galatians 2:6. He knows what is in the heart of all human beings. But when you and I react quickly and angrily, we judge only by external appearances. Our judgment and actions can be clouded by our own pride.
I believe that much of human interaction that goes badly is a matter of pride battling pride. I can be so certain I am right that I can’t see my own part in a dispute. If I am quick to become angry, if I don’t slow down and listen, take time to pray and meditate on the godly response, then I am likely to be guilty of the same prideful actions as the person I have become angry with.
Today I heeded the advice of James. I slowed down and took a deep breath. I didn’t respond immediately as I was tempted to do. I listened to the Holy Spirit and decided I would wait until tomorrow to respond, after I had time to pray about it. Turns out the issue was resolved in my favor by someone with more authority without my having to respond at all. God is good.