Don't get mad...get quiet?

James 1:19-20

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

The context for this passage is the topic of trials.  Pretty safe to say, then, that it applies to each of us every day....we're either in the midst of a trial, just coming out of a trial, or headed into one soon!  So, it's pertinent.

What counsel does Brother James have for us?

1.  Be quick to hear.

There's a difference between "listening" and "hearing".  We can "listen" for the sound of the whistle but until it reaches our ears and conveys the message to our brains, we haven't "heard" it.  Same is true for the sounds around us.  James is telling us to "hear" what is said in such a way that we comprehend the message.  Sound advice. 

Quick to hear whom?

God, first of all.  In the midst of life, He is speaking to us.  In our pleasure, He whispers "be grateful and know that all good gifts come from Me".  In our concern, He urges us to trust Him.  In our pain, as CS Lewis puts it, God "shouts in our pains: it is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”
We must be attentive to what He is saying.  Quick to hear.

Also, we must hear those around us.  May we not presume we know what they are saying before we hear their words!  Proverbs 18:13 declares If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. 
Many many times conflict could be avoided if we would be quick to hear what another is saying rather than assuming we know already.

2.  Be slow to speak.
The Greek word for "slow" here implies control. Not slow as in lackadaisical or negligent but rather managed, regulated, disciplined.
Wow.  What a difference that kind of speech can make!!
Just think about what Proverbs 10:19 says - When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. 
Proverbs 12:18 explains why we should be controlled in speech - Rash words are like sword thrusts

Ouch.  We've all been the victim of sword jabs like these.
And we've all dispensed a few to others, as well.

3. Be slow to anger.
Proverbs 16:32  tells us why it's profitable to be slow to anger             
Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city

But what else do we need to know about anger?

Mainly, that anger is not a sin.  It's a emotion.  It's like an indicator light on the dashboard of my car - when it starts flashing, it's a sign to check under the hood.
Same with anger.  When that emotion surfaces, we need to check our hearts and see what's going on in there.
Anger isn't the sin -- it's the response of our souls when what we want to be is not achieved.  Aristotle defined anger as "desire with grief".   We want something (might be comfort or pleasure or significance).  And something -- or someone -- blocks the reaching of that goal.
Result -- anger.
No, anger isn't the sin..... but what we do with it can be.

So James urges us to be slow in what makes us angry, be controlled in how we handle it. When that light is flashing, check under the hood.  What is at the root of this emotion?  Is it a right desire?  Or a selfish one?  After that introspection, then we can ask God what we should do about it. 

Oh, and then we should be quick to hear!

In the remaining verse, James reminds us that anger won't fix the problem we're trying to solve.  Because underneath every desire, every longing, every wish is really a soul that needs the righteousness of God.  And nothing else will satisfy.