John D. Rockefeller was a business magnet, philanthropist, and founder of Standard Oil Company. When he died in 1937, he was considered one of the world’s richest men.
The story is told of one of his senior executives making a bad decision that cost the company over $2 million. When the news leaked out most of the executives were avoiding Mr. Rockefeller that day assuming he would be extremely angry.
However, Edward T. Bedford, a partner in the firm, kept his appointment with the powerful head of the oil empire. When he entered his office Rockefeller was bent over his desk busily writing. Bedford stood silently, not wishing to interrupt. After a few minutes Rockefeller looked up.
“Oh, it’s you, Bedford,” he said calmly. “I suppose you’ve heard about our loss?”
Bedford said that he had.
“I’ve been thinking it over,” Rockefeller said, “and before I ask the man in to discuss the matter, I’ve been making some notes.”
Bedford later told the story this way:
“Across the top of the page was written, ‘Points in favor of Mr. _______.’ There followed a long list of the man’s virtues, including a brief description of how he had helped the company make the right decision on three separate occasions that had earned many times the cost of his recent error.”
“I never forgot that lesson,” Beford related. “In later years, whenever I was tempted to rip into anyone, I forced myself first to sit down and thoughtfully compile as long a list of good points as I possibly could. Invariably, by the time I finished my inventory, I would see the matter in its true perspective and keep my temper under control. There is no telling how many times this habit has prevented me from committing one of the costliest mistakes any executive can make — losing his temper.”
Beford then added, “I commend it to anyone who must deal with people.”
The practice of John D. Rockefeller and the advice of Edward T. Beford is solid, sound and Biblical. James, the brother of Jesus, wrote, “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (Jas 1:19).
Consider these three scriptural directives in all of your relationships with people.
(1) Be Quick to Listen.
First of all, we should be eager to hear what God says about any matter. The young Samuel said, “Speak, Lord, for your servant hears” (1 Sam. 3:9-10). An receptive mind and a responsive heart is revealed with open ears.
The willingness to listen to others without partiality, prejudice or the proclivity to prejudge is a rare and wonderful quality. It will enrich your marriage. Enhance your relationships. Enlist the support of your colleagues. Encourage the heavy-hearted. Edify your brethren. Engage those with whom you seek to exert influence.
(2) Be Slow to Speak.
There is an old adage that says, “We have two ears and one mouth, which ought to remind us to listen twice as much as we speak.” Unfortunately, the opposite is often true.
The wise man reminds us that “he who restrains his lips is prudent” and “he who restrains his words has knowledge” (Prov. 10:19; 17:27). In fact, he opines that “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent” (17:28).
Like impetuous Peter, many of us have regretted hastily uttered and ill-conceived boasts or diatribes, either publicly or privately. Being slow to listen and quick to speak can result in embarrassment. Ruptured relationships. Ruined friendships. And wrecked marriages. Or even worse.
(3) Be Slow to Become angry.
Don’t get angry at God. Or His Word. Or his people. When anger simmers it fills us with bitterness. And it may explode with nasty words and ugly actions.
Anger impedes our thinking. Cripples us emotionally. Hurts us physically. And worse of all anger harms us spiritually.
Thomas Jefferson’s advice is worth our attention. “When angry, count to ten before you speak. When very angry count to one hundred.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman