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How to Be Slow To Speak Quick To Listen in Marriage

Do you ever feel like you have lost your voice? Or like you say so much but no one is listening? I was stuck in that place. I was sure my husband didn’t care, would never listen, and could never change. Then God began teaching me how to be slow to speak in my marriage. Surprisingly it brought the peace I needed to keep moving forward!

Why Learn To Be Slow To Speak in Marriage?

So, you asked, “How can I fix communication problems in my marriage?” And I bet you were NOT expecting me to answer this way.

The fact is it doesn’t take much to cause communication problems in a relationship. We are so quick to speak whatever is on our mind, whatever we are feeling at the moment…

But, the answer is not a quick-fix communication tool, it is a systematic approach that requires intentional work on our part.   

The first communication exercise I use and teach to improve communication in my Christian marriage is to let God filter my words first.

You read that right. I invite God to guard my mouth. To do this I had to learn how to be slow to speak.

Crazy right? That feels like the opposite of what was needed, but that’s often the way the Gospel works. Right? God’s way of doing things always feels like the opposite of the logical way we want to do things.

Questions About Being Slow To Speak in Marriage

But first, let’s hash this one out and get all the questions answered so you are ready to learn and apply this incredible tool.

As I began learning from Scripture how important is to guard my mouth or listen more than I speak I had lots of questions. Some of my questions were:

  • What are the benefits of slow to speak?
  • Where in the Bible says slow to speak and slow to anger?
    • What does the Bible say about being quick to listen?
  • And what does the Bible say about being slow to react?

The truth is, the Bible repeatedly instructs us to listen more and talk less. Just Google one of these and see how many verses you find:

  • Be slow to speak Bible verse.
  • Be slow to speak Scripture.
  • Scripture be slow to speak.
  • Bible verse be slow to speak.
  • Be slow to anger and quick to forgive Bible verse.
  • Slow to speak Proverbs.
  • Be slow to speak quick to listen verse.
  • Be quick to listen and slow to speak Bible verse.

I was shocked by how many different ways people are searching out this one topic! Shocked.

Prayer Alone Didn’t Fix It…

Why learn to be quick to listen slow to speak in marriage?

Honestly… it was the next step.

The last session in this series with a challenge.  Did you take the prayer challenge?

  • Spend the next 30 days praying over the problems in marriage instead of talking, nagging, or criticizing.

Who gave it a good ole college try? 

Now, who failed within the first day?

It is just that hard to guard my mouth or keep my mouth shut about the things that I want to change about my husband and our marriage. Shoot, it’s hard to do that with anything I desperately want to change.

H.A.R.D.

So hard, in fact, that it became clear that prayer alone would not fix our communication problems.

WHAT?

Yep, I said it. Prayer alone will not fix this or a lot of other marriage issues.

How to Be Slow To Speak in Marriage For Peace Click To Tweet

BTW: This is a teaching from the 2-Week Marriage Communication Workshop. Check it out for more tools to improve communication in your marriage.

What Does The Bible Say?

“For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” (Matthew 12:34 NASB)

Whenever I face a challenge I go to the source.

Does the Bible talk to me about when I should speak and when I shouldn’t?

What does the Bible say about being quick to listen?

I asked God to clearly show me why prayer wasn’t fixing things. What did I need to do or say or stop doing or stop saying to help re-open the lines of communication in our marriage?

And, what does the Bible say about being slow to react?

A lot.

God says a lot about how to speak, when to speak, when not to speak, and why all of that matters.

Related Post: 40 Encouraging Bible Verses About Choices and Making Wise Decisions

Scripture Be Slow To Speak

He laid out a slew of those verses… Be quick to listen and slow to speak Bible verses.

Where in the Bible says slow to speak and slow to anger? These are the specific, “Be slow to speak Bible verses,” that helped me see I was talking way more than I was listening. And my heart was in the wrong place with all my words anyway.

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.” (Psalm 141:3 NASB)

“This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:19 NASB)

He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles.” (Proverbs 21:23 NASB)

“For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” (Matthew 12:34 NASB)

Related Post: 19 Encouraging Bible Verses for a Troubled Marriage

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It Is So Hard To Be Slow To Speak About Marriage Struggles

So, praying didn’t fix it. I really, really thought prayer would be enough. Who else?

Well, there was a lot of hurt behind those unmet needs and unfulfilled expectations.  As much as I know we are all trying to give them to God, it is just way too easy to take them back and try to deal with them myself. 

Can you relate?

I mean I spend so much time giving the same stupid marriage issues back to God.  This is my crazy control cycle:

  • Give the problem to God – surrendered fully.
  • Stand in faith for about five minutes.
  • Take the problem back from Him to try to handle it myself.
  • Feel convicted over that mistake.
  • Give the problem back to Him.
  • Repeat over and over until I am tired of hearing my own prayers!

Related Post: How To Let Go and Let God: Surrender Brings Peace

Prayer Is First, But Not Enough

In our first communication exercise, we were supposed to find Scripture on communication to help us do this God’s way.

Did you?
I know it’s been a week ago, but really if you didn’t have time or got distracted, I want you to go back to that step.

Yes, you heard me right.  Find marriage Scriptures that apply to your specific situation.  It is eye-opening to just google the phrase, “What does the Bible say about marriage,” and pull marriage verses from there.

Below is a set of downloadable, printable Bible Verses about communication that I use. I hope they help you get started.

Prayer may not be enough on its own, but it is still critical. Prayer changes things.

The truth is, no matter how much I am praying over the issues in my marriage I still have a pattern.  That’s what God has been showing me since I began praying over our marriage issues all those years ago.

I’ve prayed over myself. I’ve dealt with my negative thinking about my husband. Yes, I am accepting him (or trying very hard to) as he is. And I am praying hard over the real issues.   

What’s the deal? 

Why am I still saying the wrong things?

My Mouth Has A Mind Of Its Own

It feels like my mouth just has a mind of its own.

Yep, no matter how hard I try, it seems like my mouth has a mind of its own.

Have you heard the phrase, “You never forget how to ride a bike?” 

Well, that is because of muscle memory.  It’s the same for typing, handwriting, and any other repeated physical activity.  What is repeated is remembered. 

My mouth and mind have been using that Negative Thought Superhighway for years to deliver negative words, eye rolls, and annoying body language.  It takes time to unlearn those toxic communication patterns.

Hence the need to learn to be swift to hear slow to speak! It will just take time to unlearn and relearn healthy patterns.

How Do You Unlearn Harmful Communication Styles?

So prayer didn’t fix it for me. Here’s hoping you are not as proud or stubborn or controlling as I was/am/struggle to stop being…

It didn’t fix it because I was holding onto the idea that the prayer was to change my husband. I wasn’t thinking about how to be slow to speak and quick to listen really because I still saw him as 100% of the problem.

And even though I heard myself and knew… knew… that couldn’t be true, I was stuck in a cycle of pride and… entitlement. I felt entitled to say my peace because he did, because he hurt me, because he wasn’t turning out to be all I expected him to be… even though I never would have said that out loud.

And as a result of sin. Sin. Say it with me, “I had a sin problem.” Pride is sin. Stubbornly refusing to accept my part of our marriage issues is… sin. Controlling all the things is… sin.

I had to deal with a sin problem. A pattern of sin is much harder to break than a one-and-done sin issue. So how do you break a pattern of sin in your life?

Let God filter Your Words. Set a Guard over My Mouth, Lord.

A pattern of sin (those harmful words and facial expressions that I had repeated for years) takes an intentional plan to break.

You see, in everyday life, busyness comes in, irritation stirs, hormones rage and our mouths react out of habit with words that cause death in our marriage.  If we ever hope to change this pattern we need help from God.

Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.” (Psalm 141:3 NASB)

Psalm 141:3 is taped on my bathroom wall to help keep me focused and remind me to let God be the guard over my mouth so I don’t ruin everything in one emotional moment.

When emotion stirs up in us, we need to let God filter our words before we react to our husbands badly! Why? Because a wise man is slow to speak slow to anger.

Understand the Meaning of James 1:19: Be Slow To Speak

James 1:19 is the specific verse that tells us how to be slow to anger. This is a Biblical approach to every relationship straight from James 1:19:

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger” (James 1:19 NASB)

So, what does James 1 verse 19 mean?

My mom taught me this in the King James Version of the Bible and it still plays out that way in my mind though I get the first bit mixed all up:

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren (dear brothers, beloved brothers, brethren beloved, dearest brethren, dearly-loved brethren), let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”

  1. Let every man be swift to hear means listen.
    • Don’t just hold your words while waiting for a moment to speak back or state your point or argue or change the subject.
    • Listen to really hear what the other person is saying.
  2. Everyone should be slow to speak KJV.
    • After you listen, think about what was said. Let the other person feel heard.
    • Then, after really thinking about what was said, respond to what was said.
    • Respond in love and grace and truth to what they said.
  3. Be slow to wrath.
    • Anger or wrath shouldn’t be our immediate response to what people say.
    • Resist the urge to allow emotion to cloud your thoughts.
      • Pause.
      • Pray.
    • Ask questions to clarify what you heard.
    • Get space to process before you respond.

And why are we to be a thoughtful listener according to the book of James?  Because the anger of man is not going to fix things.  God’s righteousness is what is needed to change harmful behaviors.

Even if human anger in our own eyes should be enough to signal to our partner that they crossed a line… a soft answer from a place of love goes so much farther like a good gift in a challenging moment.

How To Let God Filter Your Words: Be Slow To Speak

Once you understand the be quick to listen slow to speak meaning you can before to see a pattern. When we are slow to speak our thoughts, our opinions, our argument, our defense we can be quick to love well.

A hot-tempered man is often just thinking of his or her own interests (selfish ambition Philippians 2:3) rather than speaking from a place of love.  We want to imitate Jesus Christ in this way. Why?

Love allows my partner to speak and clarify. Love gives grace. being slow to speak is about choosing love even when our emotions well up. How can we learn to be slow to speak?

There are 4 practical ways to use God’s truths from James 1:19 to change this broken pattern of communication:

  1. Don’t say the first thing you think.
  2. Vent your emotions to God.
  3. Find your voice
  4. Respond instead of react

Step 1: Do Not Say The First Thing You Think

The first thing we need to know up-front is that everything you think does not need to come out of your mouth. Right?

The first thing that comes to my mind is rarely the wisest, kindest or most loving or gracious words. Those thoughts, my initial impulse do not often line up with the way God wants me to love others.

James 1:19 is an amazing Bible verse about communication. It is, however, easier to apply outside the home. 

Out and about, with fellow Believers, and through the help of the Holy Spirit, I am the quiet one who is just listening most of the time.

But at home, I can be quick to offer my opinion and criticism.   My husband shuts down when I do that too often in a negative way. 

For years we were stuck in that pattern. We were losing all the ground we had gained through marriage counseling.  What I needed was a mouth filter.

Disclaimer

I want to add a disclaimer here:  Don’t be afraid to find a good Christian marriage counselor.  They can really help (even if you are the only one going). 

I went alone to counseling for years before Bud ever came with me.  It helped me learn about healthy boundaries in marriage and it gave me an outside perspective. 

Don’t feel ashamed that you need help.  Few in our culture know how to save a marriage or have a successful marriage last a lifetime.  Getting help is a wise choice many times.

Related Post: How Good Boundaries Provide Hope for a Broken Marriage

Step 2: Vent Your Emotions To God

What about the needs of my own heart?  I want a good life, sweet love, and a healthy marriage.  And… it just doesn’t always go that way.  What do I do with my very real emotions, with my human nature?  

Years ago I heard Beth Moore tell the story of talking to God about her marital problems before she talked to her husband. She tells about going to the car and screaming her head off about all their problems to God first just to let off the steam of the emotion. That really spoke to me!

Finding a safe space to vent your emotions to God is helpful.

At the time I didn’t have a car so I chose the bathroom as my safe space. Anytime I am upset, emotional, or feel like my mouth is about to get me in trouble I go into the bathroom and talk to God first.  I ask God to guard my mouth so I don’t get my soul into trouble.

Now, years later I am a more humble person, able to see God’s perspective and my own blind spots more. Venting to God first, obeying God’s word helps is the mark of humility and the perfect gift of love for your partner when emotions are high.

Some Amazing Benefits of Talking to God About Things First:

  • God becomes my filter.
    • Most of what I want to say – in all my emotionalism – is not good, factual, or helpful.
      • Letting God filter my words lets me get all that out of my system in a safe space (where I will hurt no one’s feelings).
  • I calm down and can communicate clearly with my husband.
    • Talking to God first lets me process my emotions and sort out the facts and speak a word of truth.
    • When I have the facts and my clear opinion (without the anger) I can have a calm conversation.
    • This piece is key because it helps me keep my voice, avoid feeling like a door-mat, and still respect my husband.
  • We usually avoid conflict.
    • After the emotion is filtered out we are able to sit down together and talk through the issues as quick listeners.
    • No Fighting. 
    • Everyone wins!

He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles.” (Proverbs 21:23 NASB)

Find Your Voice

Don’t get mixed up in the point of letting God filter your mouth. Learning to be slow to speak is NOT about losing your voice and having no say in your home. 

Asking God to be your guard is about learning how to develop a verbal filter. This allows you to respond to situations instead of reacting to them.  It will teach you how to measure your words carefully to fix communication in your Christian marriage.

When you are in control of your emotions and clearly communicating your needs from a place of love, you will have a strong voice. Your voice matters. You are God’s steward of this relationship in many ways and your voice helps you steward it well.

Respond Instead of Reacting to The Situation

What does it look like to ask God to guard your mouth so you learn to be slow to speak?

This is the difference between reacting in emotions vs responding in love.  When you want to react to the moment of tension and drama, instead, you pray, “Guard my mouth, Lord.”

Then pause and respond instead.

Respond in your true voice rather than in your emotions.

Respond in a way your spouse will be able to hear and receive.

Victory comes when we learn to respond rather than react. True, effective communication happens in this space.

How Do You Respond Rather Than React?  An Example From My Story

Picture this with me…

In a small house in Kentucky one spring afternoon, 5 kids all under 10 are running through the hallway. 

There are Cheerios smashed all around the couch, shoes are strewn near but not in the closet. Coloring books and crayons are sprawled around the table. 

An exhausted mom is browning ground beef in the skillet singing along with Hill-song on YouTube.

Her husband comes in from work obviously agitated and is ready to pick a fight.

He points out the mess and the chaos.  Not getting whatever response he hoped would come from the kitchen, he finds the missing couch cushion, sits down, adds his smelly shoes to the pile (near but not in the closet), and begins staring into his phone.

His Wife

has been doing online marriage counseling and has a plan.

She has been working hard to accept his criticism. Asking God to soften his heart to want to help her with the chaos of the house was hard but she is doing it. But today, she has had one too many things go wrong today.

She can feel the words welling up in her to tell him off and defend herself.  Defend the house, defend the kids, defend the burned beef in the skillet.

She longs to tell him a thing or twenty about how he should be helping her instead of complaining and then checking out.

Instead

she excuses herself to the bathroom.  She reads a verse she taped to the mirror about her words needing to be encouraging and edifying.  Then she whispers a prayer that God would defend her instead and save them from another fight. 

As she prays, God gives her peace and composure to go back out to the disaster zone.

“Today’s been rough, Honey,” she begins. “What do you think about dinner out somewhere the kids can play and we can connect?”

What Are The Benefits of Slow To Speak As A Way of Life?

What happened when the wife let God filter her words and guard her mouth?

Did the husband get away with being insensitive and self-centered?  Maybe… for now.

Would her harsh response have been an awe-inspiring moment where he learned how to be a better husband and never hurt her with his words again?  Nope.

Did the wife keep herself from doing or saying something that would have made it worse? Yes.

Victory!!!!!!!!!!!

James’ counsel does not let your partner off the hook for hurting you.  Later on, after the kids go to bed and they have both relaxed from a crazy day they will have time to talk.  A safer time to talk.

A Better Conversation

You always have a better conversation when the emotions have settled down.

The wife can tell her husband how those words hurt her feelings.  Her husband can tell his wife how bad his day was and how stressed he was.  They can both work through the real issues.

The dirty house was not the real issue.  The loud kids were not the real issue.

His real issues may have been feeling like a failure at work and having unrealistic expectations of his wife. 

Her real issue may have been exhaustion, a lack of appreciation and help.  None of that would have been talked through at the height of emotion.

When we let God filter our words, meet our needs, and handle our expectations we can deal with the real problems instead of causing more problems.

Redirection and Distraction

At the moment when you are practicing, “Let every man be slow to speak,” you can decide if it can be talked through then or if it needs to wait. Then you can redirect and defer until the appropriate time.

With parenting, we call this redirection and distraction.

 redirection is a simple humility and common sense that as human beings, sometimes we need a moment.

As they are at the height of a fit you don’t try to rationalize with them or teach young children.  You need to get everyone calmed down, find some distance from the raw emotion, then evaluate the issues and make a plan to avoid the triggers next time.

The beauty of married life is that if we get it wrong – fly off the handle at the height of our emotion and exhaustion – we have a new day tomorrow.  You can simply try again the next time it happens.

It will happen again.  If your life is like mine the same scenarios repeat over and over every day.

The Benefits of Learning How to Be Slow To Speak Are Peace

When you let God filter your words and guard your mouth you can avoid unnecessary conflict and improve communication in marriage! That sounds like peace to me.

Peace.

Breath in just the thought of that word.

When you pause before reacting out of emotion, you allow space for an atmosphere of peace to grow.

The more you practice being slow to speak, quick to listen, and slow to anger the more you create momentum. It just takes one of you to decide to make this change as an act of faith and the other usually catches on. It creates a safe space to know if I have a bad day and mess up, they won’t jump at me.

If I don’t have 100%, they will cover my shortfall.

It creates a space for peace to just be a mess sometimes. We all are, but if we are quick to speak, quick to anger, our partner almost feels like it’s either perfection with us or why bother trying.

A wise person can create space for their partner to be a mess sometimes…

Will You Learn To Be Slow To Speak?

The importance of prayer to improve communication in a Christian marriage cannot be overstated… but it is not enough!

You need to put action to prayer.

We have to set aside our sinful patterns and be intentional to create space for peace.

When we set aside a safe place to escape from heated emotions we can invite God into our marriage struggles to guard and filter our words.  This helps us learn to be slow to speak.

Understand who the real enemy is. Determine not to speak words of death as we fight a very real battle for our marriage. That is powerful.

Need To Go Deeper?

Today we talked about the first of 10 communication tools.

If you need more help to improve communication in your marriage be sure to join the Marriage Communication Workshop. This is a 10-session workshop that gives you practical tools to use to change and heal the broken lines of communication in your marriage.

Marriage Communication Class Online, marriage communication workshop, marriage communication exercises to improve communication #MarriageCommunication #MarriageAdvice Christian Marriage advice, Marriage advice, #hopejoyinchrist

In HIS Love,

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Tiffany Montgomery

Tiffany of Hope Joy in Christ inspires Christian Women to grow in faith, live out Biblical Marriage Principles and raise Godly Children.  Join the Wives Only Facebook Group here or keep up with her through Pinterest.

15 thoughts to “How to Be Slow To Speak Quick To Listen in Marriage”

  1. I love the idea of letting off steam in the car with God so that I can remain silent about something that won’t change until God brings a miracle. We need to remain silent unless speaking about it will actually help.

  2. Thank you for your devotion to helping Christians build Christian marriages, not just marriages. Even after 43 years of marriage, it is always a work in progress. It took me years to figure out that it wasn’t what I was saying to my husband, it was HOW I was saying it! And my marriage is still going strong, Praise the Lord!

  3. Love this!! So good, communication is so important… but I really do love that option to vent in prayer and NOT vent all the bad things right away. Talk to God first. Great point.

  4. I love your example. I’m not always up for going out with kids after a long, hard day, but I love it’s one way to handle the difficult situation. Love looking at it from new angles!

  5. It makes my heart happy to see this advice on good communication! Step #1 (Recognize that you do not need to always say the first thing you think) is also part of the advice I give to women who want to be fearless for the Gospel. Often we feel overwhelmed when we are are asked a hard question about our faith, and this great advice works equally well in marriages.

  6. This is my #1 issue. I have trouble with communication and finding ways to talk things through. I love the ideas of going to talk (OR yell) in the car and pray. I also journal when I am feeling really overwhelmed and it helps me to. I am able to read entries later and think (what was I thinking?) I have so many distorted thoughts. Thank you for this very thoughtful post!

  7. Our words have the power to build or tear down our homes and marriage. It’s so easy to say things that tear down, but it can be a challenge to guard our mouths and choose our words carefully, but it is actually commanded in scripture that we do. When we don’t heartache is sure to follow, but when we are careful and guard our mouths there are blessing that sprout from that.

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