Quick to Hear
Recently, someone shared something I had said that had offended them. The individual assured me they did not believe I meant to be impolite. Still, they wanted me to be aware of the need to pay attention to our words. It was a great reminder.
This person cared enough to confront me courageously. I knew this. But inwardly, I noticed how I wanted to defend myself quickly. It would have been easy for me to interrupt to justify myself.
I could have been quick to speak and slow to hear. But when I “speak” before I “hear,” anger builds quickly.
James writes: “… let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). First, we are to be quick to hear.
But what does it mean to hear? According to a dictionary definition, hearing is “the process, function, or power of perceiving sound.” You and I have been in conversations with someone where “sounds” were perceived, but the message was not heard.
To truly listen requires us to pay attention to the sound, hear something with thoughtful attention, and consider what is said. When someone confronts us, it requires more than physiological hearing. The content of the message must be considered and given attention.
One way to make sure I’m quick to hear is to repeat the message I’ve heard.
After allowing the person to speak -- without interruptions -- I ask: “May I reflect what I’ve heard you say?” This question provides the opportunity for clarification. Or, if I’m the one confronting someone else, I like to ask: “What did you hear me say?”
Conflict is unavoidable. But the wisdom James offers: quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger is a prescription that provides healing and hope.