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October 21, 1994

Green Light, Yellow Light

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Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak. JAMES 1:19
The Jewish rabbinic literature says it this way: “Silence is a fence for wisdom.” The green “go” light is for listening. The yellow “caution” light is for speaking. Green light—listen. Yellow light—speak.
Proverbs 13:3 says it this way: “He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.” My (Steve’s) mother said it this way, “God gave you two ears and one mouth. Use them accordingly and proportionately.”
Quick to listen. Although James is referring to the way we receive instruction regarding truth, the phrase certainly has a much wider application. We all should be eager for learning. Would those who work next to you, over you, and under you say that you display a hearty appetite for instruction and learning? Would your listening skills be a valuable quality on your résumé? Would you say that you have gotten better or worse at listening during the last few months or years?
Slow to speak. This is a call for careful deliberation before we open our mouths and engage in dialogue. It’s difficult to talk and listen at the same time. We all need to practice keeping the right balance between the activities of the ears and the activities of the mouth.
Once a young man came to the great philosopher Socrates to be instructed in speech. From the moment the young man was introduced, he talked incessantly. When Socrates finally managed to get a word in edgewise, he said, “Young man, I will have to charge you a double fee.”
“Why is that?” the bewildered student asked.
“I will have to teach you two sciences,” the philosopher replied. “First how to hold your tongue, then how to use it.”
Green light—listen.
Yellow light—speak.

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