"Understand this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Let everyone be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak [a speaker of carefully chosen words and], slow to anger [patient, reflective, forgiving];" — James 1:19 AMP
It's easy to assume and lash out when we think we've been betrayed, slighted, or intentionally harmed.
But when emotions run high, our thoughts don't often reflect 100% of reality. Here and there, we'll catch glimpses of our own insecurities projected onto other people's words and actions. On top of other people's behavior, we layer sound bites of our narratives about being unworthy, undeserving, and unlovable.
So it helps to pause, breathe deeply, and sit still before spouting words we can't take back.
Be slow to anger.
I wrote the words above back in July on my old blog, yet this week I found myself remembering them—a timely reminder to apply my advice.
Quick to hear
The other day, my workmate said something that offended me. My first instinct was to type my thoughts and embarrass them by explaining how they were actually wrong. But I didn't. I tried to listen to what they actually said, stripping their words off the story that I made up out of mere assumptions.
I paused, breathed deeply, and sat still. I let it go.
Slow to speak
I received the portable video toolkit I ordered today. It came with a phone stand, a mini LED camera light, and a tiny mic. While unboxing, I couldn't find the cord that should be used to connect the mic to my phone.
That annoyed me already (don't mess with a woman on her luteal phase, folks). But when I tried the mic using my own 3.5 mm audio jack and found that the mic still didn't work? I was fuming.
I went online and left a really negative review. Really negative (I believe I threw in the word "SCAM" out of frustration).
Ironically, after hitting "post," I started putting the items back in the box...and there I found it: the wire that I thought wasn't included in the package. It just got stuck somewhere in the box. I immediately felt guilty for not being slow to speak!
Thankfully, I was able to edit my review.
“When you hear something that makes your blood boil, don’t shoot off a text or an e-mail right away. A wise person sleeps on it.
An instant emotional reaction often leads to a regrettable outcome.”
— The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down: How to Be Calm and Mindful in a Fast-Paced World by Haemin Sunim
Slow to anger
Someone close to me criticized my spending habits, calling me out for penny-pinching just because I didn't want to splurge on snacks and go over my budget for the month. I wanted so bad to defend myself, I wanted to mock the person back and throw fuel to the fire.
Thank God, I didn't, though. I let it slide, knowing that as long as I myself respect and believe in my decisions, I don't have to waste my time begging other people to understand me.
I'm not a saint though—I still rolled my eyes at his comments and thought about mean things I could say if I decided to be petty.
Being slow to anger is not about blocking our emotions and taking everything in stride or with a smile. It's about feeling the anger, acknowledging it, and instead of acting on it: releasing it.
Leaving this verse again here (this time in ESV)—in case you want to keep this piece of wisdom in your pocket:
“Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. ” — James 1:19-20 ESV