Anytime people gather together in any kind of organization, communication becomes of utmost importance. So many problems and struggles would be overcome if we could simply learn to communicate better.
James 1:19 provides three great guidelines for helpful communication. Granted, the text is primarily about our relationship with God. However, I think these three guidelines will help us all with any of our communications.
1. Be quick to hear.
God put the hearing first. Sadly, when I start communicating, I often put cotton in my ears. I quit listening. All I’m thinking about is what I’m going to say next. I’m not listening to figure out what the other person is really saying. Sadly, I too often have my mind made up about what the other person means or thinks ahead of time. Then I interpret everything he/she says in that way and make my responses accordingly.
I need to be quick to hear, quick to listen. Quick to gain understanding.
2. Be slow to speak
I need to take the cotton I usually have in my ears and put it in my mouth. I am often ready to jump in to every conversation without even thinking. The first thing that pops into my head will just jump out on the table. Once it is said, it is too late to pull it back in. Even when I figure out later that I had misunderstood what was really going on, I won’t be able to fix that. I need to quit thinking that my thoughts are the most important in the discussion.
I need to be slow to speak. Slow to voice my opinion. Slow to show my ignorance and lack of understanding. I need to wait to speak until I really know what is going on and have something worthwhile to say.
3. Be slow to anger
I think it is very interesting that this is part of the communication guidelines. How easily I become angered with others. But I have learned that my anger never does me any good. I can even call it righteous indignation and drum up a thousand reasons why I’m in the right and the others are in the wrong. However, not once has my anger ever solved any problems between me and other people. My anger has only ever made things worse. My anger has often made miscommunications all out wars. If I’m angry, I need to deal with it. But I need to deal with it properly. As Paul says in Ephesians 4:26-27, anger gives Satan a foothold. We need to deal with it quickly and properly or he’ll weasel his way into our lives and relationships and absolutely destroy them.
I need to be slow to anger. Slow to vent my wrath. I need to breathe deeply and maintain my calm so a cool head can prevail.
There are numerous times in the life of a church that violating these guidelines can produce all manner of problems, whether in interpersonal relationships, relationships with the elders, preaching, teaching, everything. Peace doesn’t happen accidentally in a congregation. Peace happens when we all learn to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.