“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires,” (Jms. 1:19).
As if it were yesterday I can remember so clearly when this verse first came alive to me. It was when my children were small and driving me insane. I desperately wanted them to develop the “righteousness that God desires,” (and quickly J). It became clear that my bursts of anger were counterproductive to that desire.
I wanted my children to become more and more like Jesus (Romans 8:29). I contributed to that process when I was quick to stop what I doing in order to listen, really listen to them. As they grew older I demonstrated more of who Jesus is in me when I resisted the temptation to tell them what to do, or give them my opinion, allowing them to develop confidence that they could hear from God and make wise choices with his guidance. And my temper, oh my temper, it had to remain under control. Nothing good ever came of losing my temper with my children. Nothing.
Well, maybe one thing. When pooping in the bathtub became a habit I finally hit the ceiling and, with volume, made it very clear that was never – and I mean never – to happen again. It didn’t.
Of course this verse isn’t limited to parenting. God through James is giving us a couple of wise directives for life: listen more, talk less. You think we should have gotten that point by now? I think it refers to people and to God.
For the past two years God has been re-emphasizing those directive to me. He gave me this passage for last year, Zeph. 3:17 “He will quiet you with his love.” This year it’s Isa. 30:15, “…in quietness and trust is your strength…” I am to listen more to him in his Word. In prayer I am to tell him less what I want, being quiet to listen to him.
When conversing with individuals or in group settings I am to remain quiet, listen more and talk less. Give the other person(s) opportunity to express themselves and speak when God prompts me to speak, rather than thinking I have the more important words to say. The Voice puts it this way “Listen, open your ears, harness your desire to speak, and don’t get worked up into a rage so easily.”
We are not told to never become angry. There are some things in this earth-life that are worthy of fierce anger, then it may genuinely be righteous anger. But we are not to become enraged easily. It is not to be a temper problem. When we become angry it is to be the result of careful consideration of the situation.
My anger is usually the result of my pride. I react against a situation in which I am inconvenienced or otherwise treated in a manner less than I think I deserve (or less than I think I was capable of, i.e. misplacing my phone). This is an ugly revelation that God has graciously brought to my attention. Understanding is an amazing thing. Now that I see it I can access the power of God available to me to fight it.
Is it possible the same factors are in play when your anger rises and spills over?