Life is a like a dance, so the saying goes. And it’s true. Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow. You need to learn the steps so as not to trip up or fall. But here’s what I’ve found. There’s not just one set of steps in the great dance of life. Rather, there are a number. And we need to chose the right dance for the right context.
I recently came across a simple set of dance moves to use when we experience frustration in life. Most of us know these kind of situations. Something happens. Someone says something or does something and we feel annoyance beginning to arise within us. How should we react? What should we do? How should we dance when we feel like that?
The answer is to use the steps: quick, slow, slow. That’s what the writer of the most practical letter in the Bible – the letter of James – says we should do. Christ-followers are told:
‘everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry’ (James 1:19),
Quick. Slow. Slow.
Quick to listen.
Many of us, when we find ourselves in a situation that frustrates us, do the opposite. We’re quick to speak our minds. Quick to say what we think. Quick to point out error or where we think fault lies. But if we’re to dance well at such times, we should dance differently. We should listen. Listen to what’s going on. Listen to people. And listen to the Lord. Asking questions can help. Certainly we mustn’t jump to hasty conclusions. So the first step is a quick one. We’re to be quick to listen.
Slow to speak.
It’s tempting to speak, but it’s best to keep our mouths closed. That’s because our first verbal reaction when we’re frustrated, is often not the best one. Most of us have been there. We’ve said something we’ve later regretted, but it’s too late. It’s out there. So we need to hold our tongues and close our mouths. The second step, then, is a slow one. We need to be slow to speak.
Slow to become angry.
The third step is also a slow one. If we sense anger stirring, we need to recognise it and not fan it into flame. That’s because getting angry is normally unhelpful. Rather, it just makes things worse. Holding back anger isn’t easy, especially if it seems that someone has been deliberately rude or has dishonoured us. But nevertheless, dousing anger with the water of God’s healing Spirit is what’s needed. If there is a place for anger, it’s best expressed as a deliberate and considered response to genuine injustice. But to assess whether that really is the case takes time. It could be that someone has had a bad day. Or they’re tired. Or they’ve done something unintentional. Or maybe they’ve just been silly or immature. Or maybe the problem is with us. Perhaps we’ve misheard, or misunderstood or misinterpreted things. If we step back and take stock there may be lots of reasons behind the thing that’s frustrating us, some of which we might never know. That’s why it’s best to take care. To ask questions. To wait. And be slow to become angry.
So, disciples of Jesus, let’s learn to dance well this dance of life. And let’s learn this particular dance – the dance to use when we feel anger rising. It’s a dance that’s quick, slow, slow.