Waiting to Speak

You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. James 1:19-20a

Are you a good listener? Are you the type of person who is truly present to others as they talk? Listening is demanding work, requiring uncommon self-discipline. Witness the following quips: “History repeats itself because no one listens the first time.” “Conversation: a vocal competition in which the one who is catching his breath is called the listener.” “My wife says I never listen to her. At least I think that’s what she said.” “It’s my job to talk and yours to listen, but please, let me know if you finish before I do.”

Most of us have shared conversations with others in which it became patently clear that our conversation partner was simply biding his time until it was his turn to speak. While some may enjoy such exchanges, these conversations push me away from the deeper levels of friendship for which I hunger.

More importantly, however, I find that I must work hard within myself to be sure I am not guilty of that which so frustrates me in others. Of course, I want others to give me their undivided attention! But do I practice what I preach? The acid test for me is when I’m tired, or when I’m pressed for time, or when I fail to engage my curiosity, empathy, or Christian charity.

Part of learning to be “quick to listen,” I believe, is to keep the following question firmly in mind during conversations: Are you listening or are you waiting to speak? Listening to others can be a significant expression of our Christian faith because by listening we serve others, putting them before ourselves and showing them godly care in human guise. I suspect that our prayer lives could be palpably enriched if we were slower to speak and quicker to listen. While God certainly cares about our concerns, how much more does He long for us to take to heart His concerns?

So how about it? Are you listening, or are you waiting to speak?

Love in Christ,


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