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Sticks and Stones
Photo: Laurent Hamels
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.” Sound familiar? But it isn’t true, is it? Words do hurt. In fact, a cut or scrape of the skin will heal, but wounds caused by words can last a lifetime. Stop and think about it--isn’t it usually words that hurt a relationship?

“I don’t love you anymore.”
“I wish I’d never had you kids.”
“Get out of my life!”
“I want to breakup."
“You’re not my friend anymore.”

There’s a Bible text that holds the key to healthy, respectful relationships. It’s found in James 1:19: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry….” Even television’s Dr. Phil couldn’t give better advice! In this short verse, James gives three valuable communication ideals for us to follow. Here are some ways that we can apply them:

“Quick to listen.” We need to be sincerely eager to hear what the other person has to say and to listen with our hearts. This means that when he or she is talking, we shouldn’t be planning our response and then start talking as soon as they finish their sentence. To really listen means to put ourselves in the other person’s place.

“Slow to speak.” How many times have you wished you could take back your words as soon as they left your mouth? Being slow to speak means thinking about what we’re going to say before we say it. We need to consider how it will sound and how it will make the listener feel.

“Slow to become angry.” Don’t we all need this one! So often we quickly blow-up in a disagreement and once that happens, resolving the conflict is impossible at that point.  

Imagine What It Would be Like

Imagine what our homes would be like if every family member were “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” Husbands and wives wouldn’t argue anymore. Children would be respectful toward their parents. And children wouldn't be verbally abused.

Imagine what our churches would be like if every member were “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” There wouldn’t be any arguing during church board meetings. Members wouldn’t criticize the pastor. All gossiping would stop. Members would build each other up and never tear each other down.

Imagine what our workplaces and friendships would be like if everyone involved were “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” There would be harmony in the workplace. Bosses wouldn’t explode and employees wouldn’t easily offend their coworkers. Friendships wouldn’t have conflict because if a problem arose, both sides would listen and speak gently.

James 1:19 is definitely a goal to strive towards. It holds the key to relationships that are healthful instead of hurtful. I like the way The Message Bible clearly puts this text: “Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear.”

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Nancy Canwell. Copyright © 2008 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture taken from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®.

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