Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger…
…unless you are a pastor.
I wonder how many dear souls have been wounded by a pastor that is slow to hear and therefore also quick to speak and usually quick to anger. More personally, I wonder how many dear souls that I have wounded by quick counsel.
Quick counsel is easy to do. Most people have the same types of problems and therefore it is tempting to offer simple cookie-cutter solutions. I know that at times I have been guilty of throwing a few Bible verses at the heart of a weary saint (or perhaps some Christian platitudes).
Thankfully (for myself and others) I am growing. I have gotten better at following James’ admonishment to engage in active listening before I assume that I know how to speak. Here are 4 things that I have tried to do to slow myself down and make sure that I am quick to listen and slow to speak:
- Try to rephrase and repeat what I believe they are saying. “Is this what you are saying”? This helps me know that I do truly understand (in as much as I can) what the other person is going through and what they are communicating.
- Try to defend their position. This is especially helpful in a lively debate or discussion. If I am able to accurately defend a persons position, or define it in such a way that they could say, “yes, this is absolutely what I am saying”, then I know that I am in a position to understand and hopefully speak truth.
- Maybe I am the idiot. If I am think that something has a really simple solution it could be possible that I am the simpleton and not the person struggling.
- Don’t assume my assessment and counsel is helpful or communicating effectively. “Is this helpful? Does this apply to what you are saying”? etc. I can spend 15 minute rambling about something that doesn’t actually apply in this situation. It’d be like a doctor spending an hour before emergency surgery prepping a machine that he does not need to use.
- Try to look through the words to the heart. The heart is the battlefield. Sometimes the way people phrase things exposes a misunderstanding in the gospel, character of God, view of themselves, etc. Rather than trying to correct the “way” that somebody says something I try to listen for the heart’s speech.
When I am counseling someone I try to apply these things. It may make the counseling session a tad longer—but hopefully more fruitful. For the busy pastor it is probably beneficial to spend an hour once or twice than it is to spend 15 minutes 40 times.
Consider these words from Mike Emlet as well: