When Vicious Words Offend Us
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” James 1:19-20 (NIV)
I can’t believe she posted that!
As I read the words my Facebook friend posted, I cringed. If I were a cat, all the hairs on my back would be standing straight up. I’d be hissing and baring my teeth.
I began mentally formulating a reply that would put her in her place.
My eyes narrowed as I stared at the computer screen; my friend’s offending words glared at me. My fingers hovered over the keyboard as I prepared to type my clever comeback.
But then I remembered some advice from James.
It could read, “Be swift to listen, slow to post and slow to anger.”
When Facebook posts come across as critical or malicious, ugly emotions begin brewing inside of me. And often when I read posts like these, my first inclination is to respond, “But the Bible says …”
James tells me arguing won’t produce holy results.
But I want to be vindicated, to stand up for the cause of Christ, to make my point!
And therein lies the problem … in that little word “I.” I am offended because my feelings are hurt. I’m outraged because my opinion is being disrespected. My anger doesn’t stem from a passionate desire for righteousness to prevail. The root of my anger is self-centeredness. I want to win the argument and have my opinions validated.
James says to be swift to listen … for motivation behind this friend’s post.
The full verse says this: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19-20).
Maybe that person’s mask of arrogance hides an insecure person yearning for significance. Maybe a wounded heart spews those biting remarks and cynical quips. Before I respond, I need to listen …
… to hear the hurt behind the hatred.
… to sense the suffering behind the sarcasm.
… to wonder which wounds were received and which lies were believed.
I should be slow to respond because my words won’t be easily retrieved.
Angry arguments or cutting comebacks won’t help us make headway in sharing the gospel or encouraging others in their faith. The Bible recommends “speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15, NIV). It’s better to pause and carefully consider our words before typing a reply. Our words and our posts should build others up according to their needs.
In the end, I decided not to respond to the hurtful post. Yes, I could have lovingly set her straight. But it wasn’t necessary for me to reply. Forgiveness was a better approach.
Thankfully, James set me straight.
I’m learning to be quick to hear, to listen with compassion to the other person’s point of view.
I’m learning to be slow to speak or post, to take time and weigh my words.
I’m learning to be slow to anger because my self-focused anger does not accomplish the righteousness of God.
Heavenly Father, help me listen with compassion before I speak or write. Help me relinquish my desire to win an argument. May I be sensitive to Your Spirit’s leading, so I’ll know when to speak or post … and when to remain silent. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
TRUTH FOR TODAY:
Colossians 4:6, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (NIV)
Proverbs 1:5-6, “Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser. Let those with understanding receive guidance by exploring the meaning in these proverbs and parables, the words of the wise and their riddles.” (NLT)
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REFLECT AND RESPOND:
How do these words from James help you navigate difficult conversations? Is there someone whose words or posts offend you? Before you retaliate, ask God to show you how He would have you respond. If necessary, write out your response and wait a day or so before delivering it. Then go back and read what you’ve written, asking God for wisdom before answering your offender.
How have you seen the importance of being quick to listen and slow to anger in your life? We’d love to hear your story, here.
© 2019 by Margaret Kemp. All rights reserved.