3 Secrets of Slowing Down
By Joel Greenwood
Fast is the name of the game. We can stream movies instantly, get our packages delivered in one day, and read about events taking place around the world the moment they happen. Because the world moves so quickly, we’re conditioned to expect the same from people. And when our friends or family don’t respond the way we expect, or slower than we would like, our easiest response is to become angry.
In the letter of James, the antidote for the anger we feel is found when we practice slowing down. It begins with the smallest interactions. Verses 19 and 20 lay out the process of becoming more patient through slowing down in three simple steps:
“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.”
1. Be quick to listen.
This first step can be broken down into two simple actions: place an emphasis on listening to 1), God’s Word, and 2), other people. When we combine a healthy diet of Bible-reading with an intentional use of our ears more than our mouths, we’re on track to head straight to the second step.
2. Be slow to speak.
If you’ve ever found yourself speaking too quickly and immediately regretted what you said (haven’t we all?), then you know the importance of this second step. When we don’t take time to listen, our misunderstanding often quickly leads to words we regret saying. But when we take time to listen, and pair it with an extra deep breath or two before we respond, we’ll be ready to tackle the final secret of slowing down.
3. Be slow to become angry.
This one is the last step for a reason. It’s the hardest step, but made much easier through following the first two. The progression is that, if we train ourselves to be quick to listen, and slow to speak, then we won’t have a choice but to follow suit with our anger. When we prioritize understanding what doesn’t make sense to us, we leave out room for anger to seep in. Anger flourishes in a heart that refuses to understand, while patience flows from a heart that listens in love.
Slowing down is difficult. It runs counter to nearly every article or speaker we hear sharing about success in life. According to the Bible, however, a truly successful life is one that practices patience in conversation through slowing down. Ecclesiastes 5:2 says reminds us that God is in charge, so we do well when we let our words be few. The beauty of learning to be deliberately patient in our conversation is that it trains us in self-control, which carries over to countless other areas of our lives. Choosing to slow down minimizes regret and sets an example for non-believers, and that’s what we can work on starting today!