The verse below is well known and here our focus is on ‘swift to hear, slow to speak.’
19 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; James 1:19 (NKJV)
This is of particular importance in our social media culture. I suspect all of us have said things in reaction to what others have said (yes, my hand is up). When I think of this in relation to social media what comes to mind is a cartoon I saw. The wife is telling her husband, ‘It’s time to come to bed.’ He responds, ‘I can’t yet, someone said something wrong on the internet!’ Whether or not we can see ourselves in that, in our current cultural ethos it hits too close to home. We have issues with bullying, new terms that have arisen, ‘ghosting,’ and the resurgence of the idea of ‘gaslighting.’
In response to these issues, we need to hear James afresh. Inherent in the idea of being swift to hear and then slow to speak is that we each have a ‘respond ability.’ Rather than reacting to something that happens we are called to process and then provide a measured response, even under pressure.
It is easy to say this but we need an approach or strategy to actually do it. I have a friend who often seems to be listening internally in conversation. He is trying to process what has been said and how the Holy Spirit would have him respond. I have another friend where I can send an email or text and the response arrives a day or two later. He is a processor. For some people the pause comes naturally, for most of us the reaction is a more natural response.
For those of us where reacting is the natural response, James is encouraging us to push pause. If we have cultivated the habit of turning our hearts to Jesus at regular intervals throughout the day this is not difficult. If we have not, we can. Over a century ago Henry Drummond wrote a booklet called The Changed Life where he focused on the practice of trying to turn and tune our hearts to Jesus each morning. His primary point, based on 2 Corinthians 3:18, was that as we posture ourselves before Jesus that the Spirit changes us into His image.
In my own experience, one of the things I found most helpful was reading a little book called God’s Psychiatry. The author recommended meditating on four keys passages of scripture. I focused on the first. I took the 23 Psalm and spend a few minutes reflecting on it when I got up, after each meal, and then just before bed. His peace reigned in my heart.
If you need to develop the habit of being reflective, slow to speak and quick to hear and discern then pick a method that suits you and step further into the flow of His Spirit. PS if you are interested in Drummond’s book it used to be available online to download as the copyright had expired. I also have a copy I downloaded into a Word version and tidied up. Contact me if you would like a copy.