By Allen Teal, Rolla Presbyterian Manor chaplain
“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.” (James 1:19-20, NIV).
Every now and then, I hear someone say that they always seem to be in trouble from somebody. When I was in high school, I kept a sticker on my headboard that said, “Start brain before engaging mouth.” I have used it as my personal mantra for communication ever since that time. James the Just, the head of the church in Jerusalem and brother to Jesus, wrote to the early church advising them to follow a three-step plan to steer clear of creating problems with other people.
- Pay attention—get all of the factsfirst
Really knowing something trumps thinking you know every time. It is too easy to leap to wrong conclusions before you know all of the facts. Years ago, we were travelling with friends across West Virginia. Our map showed excellent highways in the state, but it was easy to see that shortest route was to take a state highway that connected the two legs of the interstate highways. What the map did not show was hundreds of hills and what seemed like thousands of curves on that small two-lane road. That missing information cost us hours of time. We made it through, but it was not a fun trip.
- Plan your response
When my children were growing up, I drummed this thought into them, “You can always say it later, but you can never truly take it back.” Most of us have had to remove a foot from our mouth because we spoke too soon. In reality, we do not have to say everything that we think. It is better if we think long and hard before we speak.
- Rein in your emotions
Too much adrenaline flowing can cloud your good judgement. Many of our responses are driven by emotion rather than by knowledge. When you feel anger rising, it is best to walk away for a moment or two. Leaving a tense situation is a sign of strength. You are not running from it. You are giving yourself time to prepare in a calm and realistic way. With Independence Day in July, let’s determine to make sure the only fireworks in our lives are from celebrating our freedom and not from trouble with friends and family.