“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:” (James 1:19, AV)
When I was young, my father and mother, and I were driving with one of my dad’s friends and his wife. We were sitting in the back seat and my dad’s friend’s wife was talking to us. She went on and on, talking and talking and talking. I don’t think she even took a breath. Finally, after perhaps 10 minutes or so, I lost track of time, my dad’s friend says to his wife, “Will you keep quiet for a second and let these people say something?” I sat there in a bit of shock and then my dad’s friend and his wife began to chuckle. Apparently, this was a typical scenario that was repeated quite often.
The point is that there are certain people that do not understand how to listen. I believe that most people cannot listen and speak at the same time. Oh, while speaking you can hear noise, but if you are speaking, and concentrating on what you are saying, I do not believe you can discern the noise that is coming from someone else’s lips. The best listeners make the best communicators. They do speak, but spend more time listening to others in conversation than they do speaking. In fact, I find that the ones who listen seem to portray greater intelligence than those who talk all the time. Why? I believe it is because we learn more by listening than talking.
The old adage goes, “It is better to remain silent at the risk of being thought a fool, than to talk and remove all doubt of it.” The writer of Proverbs states a similar thought, “Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding” (Proverbs 17:28, AV).
The problems that can arise with people who are quick to speak and slow to hear are many. I have already alluded to the fact that people who talk all the time do not hear and comprehend what others are saying. Moreover, their practice of talking all the time may develop a habit of not listening, even when they are silent. Talking all the time can push people away. When one does not give a person a chance to get a word in edgewise, people become frustrated with the conversation.
One of the big problems with people who are quick to speak and slow to hear is that they often do not get all the facts. They can launch out on projects and go amiss just because they did not get all the instructions. A person who is quick to talk and slow to listen can jump to false conclusions regarding situations, because they do not get all the facts (I’ll deal more about this in the next devotional.)
Not listening can lead to further issues, broken relationships, and sometimes serious mistakes. James gives us one of these in this verse. It is anger. A failure to get all the facts can lead to a person venting out in uncontrolled anger.
The moral of the story is to consider your speaking. Do you find yourself talking more than you are listening? Analyze your conversations and see. If you speak more than you listen you likely are missing a lot. Slow down and give others a chance to speak. You say, “But others do not have much to say.” That may be true. Try asking them questions about themselves. What do they like to do? Where have they traveled that was interesting and why? You will be amazed to find out that others will consider you to be quite the conversationalist when you just listen.