FROM THE PULPIT: Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger

By Rev. Mark Broadhead | First Presbyterian Church of Crestview

A man walked into a doctor’s office and the receptionist asked him what he had. He said, “Shingles.” So, she took down his name, address, medical insurance number, and told him to have a seat.

Fifteen minutes later a nurse’s aide came out and asked him what he had. He said, “Shingles.” So, she took down his height, weight, a complete medical history and told him to wait in an examining room.

A half-hour later, a nurse came in and asked him what he had. He said, “Shingles.” So, she gave him a blood test, a blood pressure test, an electrocardiogram, told him to take off all his clothes, and wait for the doctor.

An hour later the doctor came in and asked him what he had. He said, “Shingles.” The doctor said, “Where?” He said, “Outside in the truck. Where do you want them?”

It seems as though there are times people are in such a hurry that time isn’t made to listen carefully to what someone is saying. Instead, assumptions are quickly made, and actions and responses are made on those assumptions. Unfortunately, those assumptions can be very harmful to our relationships with one another.

Most are aware that email and texting are now used most frequently to convey messages. Whereas texting and emails do have their place, I believe we are now two generations deep in people losing the art of verbal conversation, communication, and conflict resolution.

Because of the ease and anonymity of texting or using social media, people freely type out whatever is on their minds without any kind of filter. Facts are not taken into consideration. Human dignity is not respected. Much interaction is based on an emotional knee-jerk reaction. And once a person’s mind is made up, it becomes set in concrete.

This all comes about because we are losing the ability and willingness to listen, to think, to entertain different ideas, and to converse with civility.

I believe God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason – so we can listen twice as much as we speak. And to show how important it is to listen, the word “listen” is used almost 300 times in the Bible.

Our ears, minds, and hearts need to be open with the loving grace of God so we can truly listen to what another is saying to us. We need to be able to speak in such a way that the other will be able to listen to us, too.

The letter of James (1:19-20) says, “Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.”

Are you listening carefully to what is being said? Are you asking questions for clarification? Be slow to anger, slow to speak, and quick to listen.

Mark Broadhead

The Rev. Mark Broadhead is pastor at Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian Church of Crestview.