While it makes common sense to be a good listener, we need to understand the context in which James gives this instruction. Specifically, good communication starts with learning to hear the inner voice of God’s Spirit.
Good listeners are tuned into their ‘truth centre’. When we actually know the truths that can be trusted, we are able to hear with greater accuracy. If we are listening with premixed resentment and anger, we only hear a little bit and that sounds like the hurt we are used to.
Jesus and the Prophets talked about messages being for those who have ears to hear. In other words, truth is blocked by an inability to perceive a greater reality than what you have assumed or learned.
Can we even hear a message from God without a certain condition of openness? Can we hear each other without being open to receive?
People who are not quick to listen are prone to find the fault and discount the underlying truths. And so, loneliness ferments in the stagnant disconnect of not being heard by the other.
If you find it is not your first instinct to listen carefully, you can change that. Is there an unhealthy distortion that keeps you agitated and jumping to conclusion?
I find that my listening improves through the discipline of ‘slow reading’. Instead of rushing to get through lots of information, I practice letting a message be paused, reread and thought about before moving forward. Sometimes we are not quick to listen, because something else in us is moving quickly and needs to be slowed down.
Good listeners are not hurrying.
Perhaps your spiritual life has become one of white noise. You know that background sound of the fan that helps you fall asleep at night? You cannot have white noise Christianity. You cannot get by with the voice of the Spirit just as background filler to get you through the night.
The still, small voice of God’s Spirit requires that we listen carefully and slowly. It requires turning down the other voices to give full attention.