The Apostle James said it best. The tongue is like a fire, or perhaps poison. When not under control, our mouths can destroy lives, especially our own. He went on to say, “If we could control our tongues, we would be perfect and could also control ourselves in every other way.” (James 3:2 NLT)
Thankfully, James was a practical dude. He didn’t just point out the problem, he gave us a simple solution. In a single sentence, James summarized the wisdom pretty much everybody on the planet needed to hear about communication.
Be quick to listen…
slow to speak…
and slow to get angry.
– James 1:19 NLT
There it is. Your three-step plan to changing every relationship you have in an extremely positive way. Think back to the last argument you had with your spouse, or friend, or parents, or whomever. Replay that argument with three new rules in place:
And then listen some more. Instead of thinking of your response while the other person bears their heart, what if you actually suppressed your own desire to react and just listened. Really tune in. Keep the mouth shut a little longer. Breathe deeply and calm the nerves. Hear the heart. Mentally repeat what you’re hearing so it gets your focus.
Then, listen even longer.
Plan Your Words
Having really listened, what if you took two seconds before reacting, even if you’re right. Consider the weight of your words (because words can be very, very heavy can’t they?), especially words like always and never and idiot. And words like sh… you get the picture.
When I’m preparing sermons, the hardest part of all is trimming and cutting what isn’t essential to the message. I hate to eliminate good material. We do the same in arguments. Oh, this is good… I HAVE to say this… this’ll nail’em! Slow down. Then slow down some more.
You’re right. Anger isn’t bad, in and of itself. It’s a God-given emotion and has its uses. Like when ISIS beheads people, Boko Haram kidnaps little girls, and unborn lives are destroyed by the abortion agenda. But James makes a pretty important clarification. Our anger never seems to lead where we want it to in what should be a friendly fight. He says, “Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.” (James 1:20 NLT)
Anger can produce action on behalf of the oppressed, but it never produces righteousness in our hearts. When it comes to our relationships and friendships, our anger pretty much just hurts people, including ourselves.
So, here are the ground rules for your next confrontation.
Listen a little bit more.
Plan your words.
Eliminate some words.
I’m pretty sure your next fight is going to go better than the last one.