"Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters! Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger."
As is part of my job, I work with a team to train others on how to "Cultivate Compassionate Culture" in their lives and workplace organizations. I overheard one of the attendees say, "You know, this information is really just New Testament teachings in a different context. And isn't it interesting that 2,000 years ago someone wrote down this revolutionary information and here we are 2,000 years later learning about it again because of how quickly we forget?!"
He was right. Human nature is not naturally compassionate. We are naturally slow to listen, quick to speak, and quick to become angry. It is simply a part of our wiring. There is a scientific, evolutionary explanation for why we respond to others in this way.
Our brains are wired for survival. So any time I receive stimulus that feels threatening, my brain and body reacts in a way that demands self-preservation. The threat response is even more sensitive if we have been injured during childhood when our brains are in the process of development (the injury can be emotionally, mentally, physically, spiritually, socially, etc.).
So why would God want for us to work hard to change the way that we respond to outside stimulus? Well, science is also showing that stress can be detrimental to our overall health and life longevity. When our brains are on high alert, it floods our bodies with chemicals (adrenaline and others) to keep us watchful and ready to react to danger. Fight, flight, or freeze? If those chemicals are constantly pumping into our bloodstream, we get sick.
When I read the Scripture above, I read compassion. So much of Scripture is interpreted as command, as a rule to be followed lest your soul be condemned to eternal fire and gnashing of teeth.
I don't think that's the case at all. When God tells us to do or not to do something, it is always in our best interest.
God's pretty smart.
This whole science thing? He created it. He understands exactly how our bodies and brains work and how we respond to stress and trauma. He created us in this way so that we will survive. But He also desires that we will thrive. He wants that the stress response will be the exception, not the rule. That the other 98% of the time we will live in peace ("that passes all understand") and harmony with Him and with nature.
All of this begins with compassion toward yourself. Are you slow to listen, quick to speak, and quick to become angry? Have compassion. I'm guessing that there have been times when you have felt extremely threatened. I'm guessing that you are caring for yourself in the best way that you know how. God longs for you to be well. Take a minute to breathe. Breathe in compassion and love.
You're worth it.