I just read a post that provoked a lot of thought. That’s a good thing. However, many of the comments went sideways. I dare not speak to the motives of any of these individuals, however, the Bible tells us that “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” This means we can sometimes see into a person’s heart by listening to or reading what they say.

With no individual in mind, let me speak to general human tendency. We all see things from our own perspectives. We hear and read through the filter of past history and experiences. Many of those things have great emotional impact in our lives. Our hearts are full of the emotions elicited by past experiences. Those emotions may often arise from anything that touches on a related topic. As such, any of us may associate a current conversation with what happened with someone else long ago. Old angers can resurface because of this. Our response may be more heated than needed as a result. Some believe the best response is to attack. In the parlance of the old adage. We were mad at the cat, so we kicked the dog. My friends, that is not fair to the dog.

If we are not very careful we may make false assumptions. It is natural to be reminded of previous conversations and experiences. It can be easy to assume that the person currently speaking is just like someone from our memory who influenced us (positively or negatively) on the same subject. Then we may be ‘kicking the dog’ unfairly. A good goal would be to take each person’s comments on their own merits. Don’t read anything in to it. That takes real effort and time.

This may be one reason why GOD inspired the following words in James 1:19-20. “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; (20) for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

Taking a step back can be helpful. Sometimes we must realize we have a ‘chip on our shoulder’ about a particular issue. We need to know our own ‘hot buttons’ and exercise extra caution on those issues. It is easy to have a ‘pet peeve’ and it is tempting to make it a ‘hobby horse’ that we ride at every opportunity.

When issues are stormy, we protect ourselves. We throw on a coat of defensiveness or even pull out our sword to attack. That is natural. However, when we come in out of the storm, we need no longer need those things. We check our hat and coat at the door. We don’t wear our sword when we feel safe.

In like manner, in any current conversation, it is good to check our emotions at the door; put away our preconceived notions, take the chip off of our shoulders and focus only on what is currently before us. We must not let our emotions destract us from what is actually. It is good for us to apply any teaching to our own lives, but if our emotions get involved, things can get skewed. Remember the wise words of Jeremiah 17:9 “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” Our emotions can be a confusing jumble and difficult to understand. In counseling we were taught that a person in a highly emotional state is much like a drunk. They are not thinking clearly. Before we can have a rational conversation the drunk must get sober. In the same way, we must deal with our emotions before we tackle the intricacies of logical thinking.

That brings us right back to James 1:19. “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”

Dr. J. L. Edwards

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