‘Be quick to listen, slow to speak’

“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” James 1:19 

A little bit louder for those in the back.

James’ 2,000-year-old words are either ridiculous or revolutionary.

We live in an uncomfortably loud culture with our 24-hour news cycles, conspiracy theories, social media, fierce American individualism and all of our incredible opinions on science, justice, religion and fashion trends that must be shouted.

To be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry” speaks against everything that comes natural to me, and I will venture to guess, you. The only thing slow about me is my 40-yard dash time. It is so easy to jump to response and rage, without ever listening to what someone else is actually saying. Instead of seeking to understand, we seek to dominate.

We use our speech, our Facebook page, Twitter handle, crudely-made poster board signs to pounce on other’s words to weaponize them and lob verbal grenades back at them. Afterward we stand with a Cheshire grin over the fallout with a sense of superiority and pride.

In the words of Dr. Phil, “How’s that working for us?”

It is exhausting. Unfulfilling. Disastrous. Destructive.

If we want better, we must do better. You and I must move past our natural response, to our created response. We were created with one mouth and two ears. Maybe our anatomy is trying to tell us something?

Leadership starts with listening. Regardless if we lead at a macro or micro level; if our leadership role is as a parent, coach, team leader or CEO.

When we shift our posture to listening we immediately recognize that neither you nor I are the center of the universe. We also immediately show value to those entrusted within our area of influence.

This is a simple shift, but not necessarily an easy shift. Listening is a learned behavior. We have to intentionally choose not to talk, choose to not jump to conclusions. We have to simply listen, seek to understand. Allow others to explain their perspectives and experiences. As a verbal processor, this is akin to running a marathon in hiking boots while holding a baby, but it is worth it.

I want to close by sharing the single truth that has helped remind me to “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to be angry”.

The world needs your empathy more than your opinion.

When we listen we hear others’ hurts, unspoken underlying truth, and it allows us to understand not just what is spoken but who is speaking. In my opinion, James’ words are both ridiculous and revolutionary, but more than that they are true.


Dylan Does is the lead pastor at Restore Church

in Marshalltown.


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