The following is a devotional for the Family Life Lessons series I’m writing for HopeStreamRadio. It will be online in the next week or two.
You may find it odd that an outgoing, relationship-driven extrovert who likes to talk loves the book of James with all its references to guarding the words of our mouth. Trust me. I find it pretty amazing as well.
But maybe because I am this kind of person is the very reason I am drawn to this short book in the Bible. I know just how much I need to think through what I’m going to say and how it will impact those who will hear me, something I do more today than I used to but something I’m still learning.
And then there’s that six-letter word that can change everything: listen. I’ve learned over the years that listening doesn’t mean simply not talking—and believe me that can be hard enough. But my husband is an active listener. He really absorbs what I’m saying. And I am so thankful!
Talking and Listening
So why all this talk about talking and listening?
I would like to share one of the most powerful verses in the book of James, in all of Scripture actually.
James 1:19 says, “Know this . . . let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (ESV).
Stephen Covey’s wise words gave me much to think about. He said, “Listen with the intent to understand, not the intent to reply.” These words are very much in keeping with the verse above.
To those of you who are good listeners, I say, “Kudos! And thank you!” I also ask you to be patient with the extroverts and talkers in your own lives who are still learning how to do this.
Of course this doesn’t mean that those of us who always have something to say—on pretty much any topic—should clam up and never utter another word. But we must remember what God says in Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
Will our words bless those who hear them? Will they add value to the conversation? Will they honour God? These are good questions to ask ourselves before speaking.
James 1:19 and Family Life
James 1:19 has numerous applications to family life. Let me share just a few.
We are to be “quick to hear.” That means we have to stop and give the other person our attention. How many times have we heard their words, but then, when asked a question, we realize we haven’t really been paying attention and don’t actually know how to respond?
We must model the willingness to really listen, to really hear. And when we can’t do so, we must let the other person know we will give them our undivided attention as soon as we’re able—and then remember to do so.
And for those of us who are extroverts, the second imperative in the verse is likely the most challenging. We are to be “slow to speak.” That can be tough when a dozen responses immediately pop into our head.
But not everyone is looking for our insights and so-called wisdom. Sometimes they just need someone to listen. They may be working things out by voicing their thoughts and ideas. What they actually need is a loving, caring sounding board. Our response just might have the opposite effect than we intend. We may want to help, but the underlying message the listener hears—even though it isn’t what we intend—is this: You are not capable of figuring this out; you need my help to do so.
Of course there are times we should speak up, times we must speak up, but we need a great outpouring of God’s wisdom to know when it’s appropriate to speak and when it’s best to remain silent. And, in most cases, it’s better to err on the side of remaining silent when we should speak than vice versa.
And what about the last part of the verse? We are commanded to “be slow to anger.” When my children were young I struggled regularly with anger that would bubble up like corrosive acid. Sadly, it often splashed over and hurt the people closest to me, my husband and our three children.
While I couldn’t simply flip a switch and turn off my anger, if I had truly surrendered to the Lord and asked Him to help me walk in obedience, things would have been much more peaceful. Thankfully, I have the most patient husband on the planet. Plus, God has blessed my relationships with our three grown children and I enjoy an undeserved closeness with each of them, emotionally though not geographically.
James 1:19 is a wonderful verse to explore in our times of family devotions. We can discuss practical ways in which to apply it to specific situations within our home and beyond its walls. If we begin by prayerfully considering and sharing how we can apply this verse personally rather than pointing fingers at how others should do so, our family members may just follow our lead.
As in all things, it is important to be open and honest—while showing respect to our spouse and our children.
So today, let’s be “quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to angry.”
I just love my fellow Gloria Weber’s idea of prioritizing my goals. So, in keeping with the idea that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” here goes:
Keep up with writing and recording for HopeStreamRadio
For the most part, I’m to the place where I need only write and record one devotional each day. After going into high gear to work a little ahead, this seems fairly easy. This is one of those projects I just know I’m supposed to be involved in. So cool!
Keep on schedule with work for my clients
There are a couple of projects on the horizon. Woohoo! But currently I’m on track.
Finish prepping to co-teach a Creative Nonfiction Intensive at Write Canada
If I get some reading and notetaking done this weekend, things will be in good shape.
Do the reading and attend three births by the end of August to maintain my doula certification
I am currently walking around with my cell phone at hand. I could get called to attend a birth any day. I will need to purchase an extension to get everything done to recertify, but I’m really hoping I can make it happen.
I haven’t come up with an official schedule as of yet, but I have started including something else with every check-in and that’s a start. I am still keeping up with my guest posting and that’s good.
Stop neglecting the housework.
There are some things I’d really like to get done around here. I’d be quite happy with the basics at this point.
The fact that this goal occupies a place so far down my priority list may indicate why I’m not doing as much exercise as I would like to.
I’m purchasing a lot of healthy food because of my daughter’s overactive stomach acid production. Having it on hand will make eating better much easier for me as well.
Write 30,000 words as per my Camp NaNoWriMo goal
I bumped my goal to 40,000 and hit that last week. I could have bumped it to 45K, but that was no longer an option on the website. Looks like NaNoWriMo is actually doable for me. I just may have to sign up in the fall.
Check in with my fellow ROWers regularly
This is not at the bottom of the list because it’s unimportant. It’s just because, alas, something has to come last.
By the way, I also like Gloria’s idea of an intro video. I just may have to follow her lead on that idea too.