Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Quick To Hear, Slow To Speak

James 1:19-20

19 This you know, my beloved brethren, but everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

As I continue to experience more and more of life, I realize how wise these verses are. During the past year, we've been through our share of hardships. Lots of people said lots of words to us. And lots of those words didn't help at all. The hypothetical person saying "It could be worse," for instance.

For example, if you Google the phrase "miscarriage what not to say," you will get lots of different lists. Some of the things on those lists have been said to us. Out of the things that have been said, some of them really didn't help, others were just in one ear and out the other. Very few, if any, lines actually did help us feel better. In fact, some actually appear on both Do's/Don't's of different lists. I'm trying to point out that saying things will not necessarily help mend wounds quicker...I know it's a bit cliché, but sometimes time is the only thing that can help.

When I'm confronted with someone who's going through a tough time, my first thoughts are "what can I say to help this person?" And then I would guess that I would probably race around in my mind, looking for something, then say it. This, of course, is not the right way. It's a knee jerk reaction, and one should seek to suppress the knee jerk.

In fact, what you find to say might seem very helpful. But as I've seen on those lists-of-things-not-to-say, what I think could be helpful could actually be a very wrong thing to say. It really doesn't matter what you yourself think is helpful. After all, you are not seeking to help yourself, are you? You're seeking to help the other person. So I implore you to give the overnight treatment to your spoken lines to a grieving person: sleep on it, think about it, Google it (?), and if it seems fine the next time you speak to the person, maybe it's okay to say. In my experience with grief, there is very little good that can come from trying to talk the griever into a better state. (I know I just said almost the exact same thing last paragraph, but I wanted to say it again.)

So what do you say then? For us, hearing that people would pray for us usually did help us feel a bit better. You can hardly go wrong with prayer. And if you're not the praying type, then I don't know what you can say ;)

(Pagan or areligious phrases like "I'll light a candle for you" or "I'm sending good thoughts your way" peeve me.)

Let's also examine the third part of the underlined portion. I usually hear the first two quoted together, but it's less often that I hear the third portion. This whole phrase should apply to all parties. So while the person hearing the grief should be quick to hear and slow to speak, I myself need to be slow to anger, if the listener says something stupid. The need to slow your anger will differ, depending on your temperament; my first reaction to most grief-like adversity is anger (accompanied by desires to rend flesh and torch houses...or not. Rar) , and wifey usually reacts first with sadness. I need to be slow to anger towards those who have wronged me, those who have said stupid things, those who are in a better situation than me, and God. I suppose I should also be slow to anger towards varmints who think our garden is a 24/7 salad buffet.

This post mainly dealt with James 1:19-20 in grieving situations, but obviously it applies to other areas as well. You'd be hard-pressed to go wrong while heeding the wisdom in these verses.

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2 have poured out their souls in electronic text:

  • Birdie

    Well said.

  • Harmony's Mom

    I have been thinking about this post a lot lately. It dawned on me yesterday that the best response to bad comments would be to say to God, "Father forgive them, they don't understand what they are saying." I think as people go through life situations they will come to understand things later. Others may never understand. But God does.