19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
How well are we listening? "Active" listening involves the whole body, spirit, and mind of the person in the effort to absorb meaning and attend to subtle as well as overt messages. Words from an angry toddler of "I hate you" is understood as more about internal frustration than actual hatred. Listening for the internal hurt or pain of the other person can be difficult when we are suffering too. What may help is the reminder that Jesus took the time to listen to the two thieves while on the cross. Are we taking time to listen while angry?
When we are angry, words can fail us or we can choose to say things that we will regret later. Like this typeset image, words that are meant to have one meaning may convey a completely different message when we are angry. Even "I love you" can sound hostile and bitter in an argument. This biblical advice is helpful in reminding us that we should, in fact, speak (not shut down in bitterness) yet take care in our words and delivery.
Many people report that their anger goes from zero (0) to one thousand (1000) without any opportunity to slow this process down. There are many numbers between 0 and 1000 for anger and we just need practice to identify and express them effectively. Without this anger work, we will likely anger quickly and lose all hope of saying what we mean and working toward change and resolution.
This passage emphasizes the call for Christians to express anger in a way that will produce righteousness. Galatians 5:22-23 can help us to design our anger responses toward the fruit of the Holy Spirit:
"love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control."
There are many Bible verses that describe righteousness that relate to being a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ and living according to that faith. How might our anger be expressed to meet that requirement?
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