Tuesday 12 March

19You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness.

I know there are times to speak. Clearly, James knew there were times to use words. In his letter he uses 2,332 words in the English translation. But, I have more often regretted speaking than I have regretted keeping silent. And, certainly, I know that I have less need to repent when I resist the temptation to rush to speak than when I hold my tongue.

When words come too quickly it is usually because I am eager to make an impression. Quick words have something to prove. When I am determined to convince you, my words pour forth in a torrent of language. There is no pause between sentences. The tone of my voice is clipped; it is urgent and tense.

I speak better when I speak slowly.  My words are more life-giving, when I take time to allow them to emerge from deeper within myself rather than simply in reaction to the surface.

In my experience angry words seldom emerge from this deeper place. When I speak in anger, it is usually because I am frustrated. Life has not unfolded according to my wishes. I am resisting the reality of life as it is. I feel hurt, let down, betrayed. I respond with a rush of words.

I may dress up my anger calling it righteousness and “truth”, but it is most often a manifestation of the feeling that I need to defend myself. I feel threatened, under attack, and so I lash out with angry words.

Jesus sought to put a stick in the whirring wheel of my anger when he instructed his followers,

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44).

These words hold out the promise of reconciliation and healing. To “love” my “enemy” is to give myself to that strong current of life that Jesus embodied. When I give myself to the flow of love, I have nothing left to fear. I no longer have anything to defend. My words are gentled. There are no more enemies.

The angry cycle of retribution and violence is broken. “God’s righteousness” flowers.