Slow to Anger

“(19) Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. (20) Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.” {James 1:19-20 NLT}

One of the key factors that lead to conflicts is that we are inclined to want to have others listen to us and don’t really desire to listen to others.   It is difficult to hear things that we don’t agree with.   Yet, one of the first things I can do to defuse a conflict is to go into “listening mode’ and strive to really understand the other person.   Listening is not agreeing but it is honoring the other person enough to try to see through their eyes.

“If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” 
– Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

When we are ready to judge and condemn the other person, “listening with compassion” means that we remember our own faults before we harshly criticize another. 

“Whenever you are about to find fault with someone, ask yourself the following question: What fault of mine most nearly resembles the one I am about to criticize?” 
– Marcus Aurelius, Meditations.

We have to look out for the self-righteous statement.  “I would never do that” even if we only say it to ourselves, since this invites to go react in moral outrage and superiority to the other person.   

We need to just uncritically hear and attempt to actually be open to understanding the other person’s point of view.  When we can “Echo” their view back to them in our own words and they agree we have understood then we have been effective in listening.

The next step in keeping ourselves out of destructive arguments is to always carefully and prayerfully think about what we will say in response and how we will voice our disagreement.  We need to state what we say as “I think” and “I feel” instead of stating our point of view as “the facts” and avoid accusing the other person with a lot of “You always” statements.   Express your perspective without threats, condemnation, sarcasm, mocking, cursing, or yelling.   We will be heard better if we approach things from one of love and peace.

“(1) A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” {Proverbs 15:1 ESV}

Being slow to anger depends on us seeing how it is just one letter away from “danger”.  Weighing the cost of getting angry, the damage we may do, and the very real potential that instead of accomplishing God’s will on the earth, we will do harm instead.  While it is possible to be angry and sin not, it should be a last alternative instead of a first one. 

So taking a pause from a discussion, to process the problems, and plan for solutions will normally accomplish more than us losing or temper.