Understand this, dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. James 1:19 is one of those verses we read and then cringe – a little or a lot depending on our most recent anger episode. Each time we face anger, we have a choice to make, and sometimes it’s just too easy to make the wrong one.
James has plenty to say on the topic of anger, yet, he does it with few words which brings us to part two of Growing in Anger.
Slow to Speak
As a professional anger stuffer, this part of the verse is a gut punch. According to James, anger is not silent. He actually says quite the opposite. He doesn’t question whether or not we verbalize our anger; he focuses on how we do it. Speaking with slowness indicates a pause, a moment of reflection, something we aren’t so good at as children.
As a child we don’t take time to dig deeper into the moment of anger, we simply respond and never deal with the truth of it. Ignoring anger or its causes leads us to react immaturely, for example, sarcasm, accusation, condescension, manipulation, ultimatums or even the silent treatment. James challenges us to pause and reflect before we speak, enabling us to respond in maturity.
Anger handled with maturity can take different forms. When anger rises and we take that moment to pause, we can analyze our motives. What do I need at this moment? How can I verbalize that in a helpful way? A mature anger moment can also be assessing whether or not a conversation is productive. Are my words moving me toward resolution or escalating the situation? Angry moments rooted in maturity move both people toward growth and restoration.
Ultimately, James knows that when we choose to respond slowly, we give the Holy Spirit time to temper our response with Christlike maturity.
As women of betrayal, we remember the tornado of discovery day emotions. For my d-day, although anger was in the mix, it didn’t surface until two months later. And let me just say, it did not appear in its mature form. In fact, the anger toward my husband was unleashed on a completely different person – my daughter. (Remember earlier when I said I was a professional stuffer. That day I became a professional exploder.)
After catching my college-aged daughter in a serious lie, I lost it. For a mom who never yelled or came unhinged, I could have won an Oscar that night. There was no mature pause, no analysis of who I was really upset with, no connection to any deeper emotion. It was just sheer anger flooding through me and out of me. I wasn’t concerned with her growth through the situation. I was focused solely on how I had been wronged.
Had I taken that pause that James suggests, I still would have been angry and hurt. However, I would have also recognized that my anger was fueled by her father’s lies and my devastation from his actions. Yes, she had hurt me as well, but she suffered the immature retaliation of pent up anger.
Speak Slow To Grow
We will, and should, get angry when faced with sexual betrayal. And according James, we should also voice that anger AFTER we’ve made a choice to handle it in maturity. Let’s face it, that’s a tough behavior to master, but life in Christ is not about perfection but pursuit. Each time anger visits, let’s accept it as an opportunity to live James’ words: Speak slow and grow!