James is one of my favorite New Testament letters because it is so full of practicality and immediate "apply"-ability. Take for instance, verse 19: "Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry."
Many of us have heard the saying, "God gave us TWO ears and ONE mouth, so we should LISTEN twice as much as we SPEAK." That would certainly be the case if we were quick to listen and slow to speak. But it’s the rest of the verse that usually gives me problems for, in many ways, it deals with what I say when I do speak (and even more so, how I say it). I have found that when I am quick to become angry, quite often it is precisely because I haven’t taken the time to listen.
As you might guess, it is with my family that I most often express my anger. And while to some extent that falls into the "you always hurt the one you love" category, I have noticed something else. The speed with which I am likely to express my anger depends somewhat on the measure of authority I hold in the relationship. I most freely get angry with my children (the worst way to use authority in the relationship); less so with my wife or others in "equal" relationships; seldom, if at all, with those who are in authority over me. For example, my supervisor has never heard me yell at him. In fact, him I’m usually willing to listen to.
We see throughout the Bible that we ought to humble ourselves. Of course that doesn’t mean that we ought to toss aside the authority entrusted to us but we should use it in the right way. We should follow the example that Jesus set and become more humble and servant-like in all our relationships. As that happens, I’m sure we’ll find that we are quicker to listen, slower to speak and even slower to become angry. And wouldn’t that be better all the way around?