Listening, speaking, and anger. Lack of listening is a common reason for relationship spats. Speaking when you shouldn’t, or with the wrong tone or timing, can get you into big trouble. And everyone knows that anger can be very destructive. You can imagine several ways these are related. 

Jesus’ half-brother, James, wrote about this very topic in an extremely practical letter to the first century church. In the Bible, James 1:19-20 says:

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

Listening well is both an art and a discipline. It takes effort and concentration. When our spouse or child is talking to us, do we keep on looking at the computer screen or TV, or do we stop what we’re doing, turn from the computer, pause the TV, and devote our attention to them? Perhaps worse, do we even continue the task at hand and walk away while they are talking? If we want to show love to others and avoid conflict that can lead to anger, we should stop what we are doing and fully engage in listening. Practice makes perfect.

Speaking and listening are connected. Do you know someone who interrupts? It’s one of my pet peeves. Interrupting is a dead giveaway that the interrupter wasn’t fully listening to the speaker. We shouldn’t start crafting our response as they are talking. If you are in a heated discussion or argument, listen fully before speaking. Respond, don’t react. Ask the “why” behind their question or concern. This can go a long way to let others be heard and diffuse conflict. Speaking and/or listening problems can commonly lead to anger from or toward us.

At times, anger can be righteous. However, we can also cause all kinds of trouble for ourselves and those around us. In Ephesians 4:26, the Apostle Paul reminds us: “In your anger, do not sin.” One way to make us more aware of this is a little self-reflection. Imagine a fuse leading to a bomb. Does your anger have a long fuse (takes a lot to get you riled up) or a short one? And when you do get angry, is your “boom” massive and destructive to those around you, or pretty small and localized, rarely affecting others? Once you understand your pattern, strive to have a long fuse/small boom. In your anger, do not sin.

Why is it important to get listening, speaking and anger correct? The last part of the verse in James says it all. God desires for us to grow to be more and more like him, to begin to produce and reflect His righteousness to those around us, which will point others toward Him. I encourage you to work on improving your listening and speaking, and express your anger with a long fuse and a small boom.