If everyone could live out James 1:19, oh how different the world would be.
The simple 14 words at the end of the verse provide perhaps some of the most practical and important lessons that anyone, not just Christians, can learn in life.
“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” reads the New International Version.
This isn’t just commanding us to literally listen when others are speaking — that’s something we are all taught from a young age. And, while that is something we could all do better, we believe there is more depth as well lying within this verse.
It’s hard to want to listen. It’s hard to defer speaking, and it can be even harder to delay anger if you feel you’re addressing something where your anger is justified.
If we’re all being honest with ourselves, we’d much rather share our perspective, our story, our point of view and our talking points than sit and listen to others. We have an idea of how the world works, and it can be hard to listen to others’ idea of how that same world works.
As we celebrate Black History Month in the United States, this is a golden opportunity for all of us to live out James 1:19.
It’s important for all of us to approach this month with a posture of listening. Hear the stories of others. But just because February is Black History Month, it doesn’t mean there should be arbitrary lines on when we do and don’t engage with intercultural education and relationships.
Listening is a vital aspect of this. Engage in these conversations and go in with a mind geared toward listening. It’s amazing how much our perspective can change when hearing others’ stories, especially in the context of a relationship that has already been built.
“Highlighting Black History is a great time to build awareness and dialogue but knowledge is simply not enough,” senior Sumana Wiig said. “Relationships need to be built, there needs to be space for reflection and conviction. I would encourage others to see how they have built relationships and sought love and reconciliation in the spaces they are in.”
At Taylor, this could look like getting involved with a trip abroad. Or participating in programming from the Office of Intercultural Programs.
It’s also important to remember that what James is commanding us to do isn’t agreeing with everything.
There’s a line between listening to others and hearing what they have to say on certain topics and fully agreeing with everything they have to say.
But, listening is the best way to initially bridge those gaps that can exist.
“I found intercultural communication particularly challenging when I was focused on the differences,” Wiig said. “I was quick to 'speak' or justify myself but with time I have learned to 'listen' more or 'see' more, listen to myself, and others. I have learned to ask myself, what insight are they carrying that is unique and special? How can their perspective open my eyes and heart?”
And let us not forget the end of that verse. “Slow to become angry,” James writes. In today’s world, anger can prematurely end potentially fruitful conversations and relationships. We’d rather dig in on our specific viewpoint instead of further entertaining what the person on the opposite side has to say to us.
Are there times when anger is justified? Of course. Injustices of all levels should anger us.
But that doesn’t mean we should jump to get angry at the first sight of something we deem wrong. How many times do we find out after the fact that there was just a misunderstanding within the communication? Something that being quick to listen could have solved.
The opinions expressed in the Our View represent the view of The Echo student newspaper Editorial Board alone, and not the views of Taylor University.