I was feeling convicted by my Bible verse of the day, so I thought I would share in case this message is for you too. James 1:9 says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”

When I get angry, it is often because I am in a reactive state. I hear something, whether it’s a comment I overhear or a direct conversation, and then it triggers a reaction inside me. The thing is, I wonder, how often am I really listening to what is being said?

Let’s take, for example, the situation where I overhear something that makes me feel angry. I would say there are three instances that trigger anger for me: 1) a negative comment about an issue that I feel strongly about, 2) a negative comment about someone I care about (or just hearing a truly disrespectful comment made about anyone), or 3) a negative comment about me or something I did. In all three cases, how much am I really listening to what is being said? Well, if I’m being honest, probably very little. I am eavesdropping on someone else’s conversation so I don’t have all the context. I don’t know if the person talking about the issue I care about was roleplaying the “devil’s advocate.” Unless it is something outright disrespectful or degrading, I don’t know all the background that led to the criticism of someone else. 

Which brings me to the third situation: a negative comment about me or something I did. Hopefully in this case I have more background information as to why the comment is being made. But, either way, when I hear a negative comment, how often do I really listen to what is being said? I think it’s human instinct to immediately become defensive. What if, instead, I slowed down and listened to the feedback? Instead of letting myself ask questions like, “how could they say that about me?”, I should ask myself, “what is this person trying to say? How can I use this feedback?” The other question I know I need to ask is, “is what this person saying valid?” Because sometimes people are just mean or they do say things without all the information. And in that case, instead of getting angry, I just need to let it go and move on.

It’s more difficult to be thoughtful in my reactions when I find myself becoming angry during a one-on-one conversation. But again, I keep coming back to, am I really listening to what is being said? How many times have I become upset with my husband before he even finishes his sentence? Or, worse, angry about something he didn’t even say? 

I have learned over the past couple years that it is our thoughts that control our emotions and our actions, and we are the creator (I would argue co-creator with God) of our thoughts. I am going to work on choosing to think positively and to ask questions before letting myself react. How about you?