The title summarizes much of what passes for discourse and discussion today. We are more likely, it seems, to attack than converse. We tend to disagree so disagreeably. We appear to have lost the ability to have helpful conversations about areas where we may differ. This negatively affects us in our jobs, our families and our friendships.
Perhaps it is partially the result of media and social media. News shows have purveyors of opposing views talk over each other as though the best volume provides the best logic. Social media rewards demeaning attacks with attention and followers as though exclamation points make the point. Is there a better way?
James 1:19 provides some valuable insight for us. “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” Here, God’s word gives us three ways to improve our relationships, discussions and disagreements.
1. Listen carefully. Being “quick to listen” means we care about hearing what is being said. Rather than formulating a rebuttal, we listen in order to understand. Clear understanding is valued by good listeners. They see that it is the only way to truly respond in a helpful manner.
Sadly, the art of listening seems to be dying from neglect. We rush to answer and to challenge and to opine. But the only rushing this verse endorses is that we be quick to hear what is being said.
Good communication begins with good listening. Ask the Lord to help you become a good listener. Do this and you will have a good start to healthy discussions.
2. Speak thoughtfully. Have you ever spoken words in haste that you regretted? It is a common malady. The bible tells us to be “slow to speak”. This suggests that our words be thoughtful and measured and reasoned. Doing this keeps our tongues from being a weapon and allows them to be used to bring help, healing and blessing.
Choosing to think about what we are saying keeps us from the danger of foolish, childish or harmful words. It allows us to use our speech in ways that build up rather than tear down.
Be sure your mind is engaged when speaking. Many a careless and thoughtless word has been used to damage marriages, end friendships and build barriers. Ask God to help you think before you speak.
3. Love constantly. Anger is a dangerous emotion. Unchecked, it becomes a raging wildfire of pain and hurt. We are told, therefore, to be “slow to anger”. James 1:20 even tells us why we should be so careful– “for human anger does not accomplish God’s righteousness.”
While there is a righteous anger (see Jesus cleansing the temple), most anger in our world is of the human sort. We blame it on others, our temperament or our past. But the bible warns us to beware.
Rather than choosing anger, choose love. Choose to love that spouse who doesn’t always understand you just as you don’t always understand him or her. Choose to love that friend who is going the wrong direction. Choose to love sinful people who are doing sinful things. Choose to love those who are wrong politically, theologically or morally. Disagree? Yes. But love is the needed response, not anger. Ask God to help you choose love over anger.
We can learn to disagree in agreeable ways. We can hold strong convictions without becoming jerks. We can respond rightly to those who are acting wrongly. These are things we can learn with the help of God’s word and his perspective. Ask God to help you apply the lessons of James 1:19 to your conversations today.