The Upper Room Devotion for Friday, April 21, 2023, was written by Elizabeth Erlandson of Nebraska.
19 You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for your anger does not produce God's righteousness.
21 Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls. 22 But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. 23 For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; 24 for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. 25 But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing. 26 If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
James 1:19-27 NRSV
A GOOD LISTENER
My husband was in the hospital recovering from emergency open-heart surgery. I had spent several days sitting by his side, first keeping vigil, then keeping him company. One afternoon, desperately in need of respite, I drove to a nearby mall and wandered through the shops. When I went into my favorite clothing store, the clerk who helped me was new. We were strangers, but within minutes I was sharing my story. She listened intently and with great empathy. When I left the store, I felt better. Since then, I have often stopped by the store to say hello and visit for a few minutes.
We live in a hurried world where listening with compassion and understanding is rare. James 1:19 reminds us to be quick to listen and slow to speak. Listening well is a difficult discipline to cultivate, but it is worth the effort. In a noisy and distracted world, finding someone who cares enough to pause and acknowledge our feelings is priceless. Perhaps by becoming good listeners we will encourage others to come back and hear what God says to them through us.
Often, we are so focused on being heard that we ignore listening to others. We interrupt others, before they have had the chance to finish their thought, to make sure we express our viewpoint. We make assumptions about what someone intends to say and begin responding based on our assumption versus what was actually said. We do not take the time to pause, focus on hearing and understanding others. Elizabeth’s reflection highlights the gift of grace that is extended when we listen compassionately. The author of the Book of James underscores the importance of listening before speaking, so that our words might be tempered by understanding, empathy, and grace. As you continue through your day, take time to pause and listen to the story of one who crosse your path.
Dear God, open our ears so that we may hear your voice. Teach us by your Spirit to truly listen to others. Amen.
- Elizabeth Erlandson