Proverbs 19

“It’s wisdom in a person’s life that keeps their patience strong; for it will make one’s glory shine to overlook a wrong.”  (Proverbs 19:11)

This is the nineteenth in a series of posts on Proverbs, which I am translating into common meter.  The following contains my rendering of Proverbs 19, preceded by a brief reflection.

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A few months into the Covid lockdown in 2020, my son John and I were talking over the phone.  He asked how I was spending my time, to which I replied, “reading, studying, and writing.”  His quick response, “Well Dad, it seems like you have been training for quarantine your entire life.”  He was pretty close to the mark because, as an introvert, I prefer quiet, reflective living.  So when the pandemic struck, I easily embraced the endless months of involuntary semi-solitude.  In this, I was most fortunate because for many it was a time of emotional and financial hardships.  But whether the experience was easy or difficult, we all were all impacted in some way by the disruption of our relationships.  Perhaps it was family members we could not visit, or friends we could not have coffee with, or groups that stopped meeting.  Isolation affected all of us in our interactions with others.

Things are now starting to open up, and relationships that have been on hold for the past year are gradually being renewed.  What will these look like?  Will we just sort of pick up where we left off, or will something be different?  I heard an interview with Jason Rezaian, a Washington Post journalist, who was imprisoned in Iran for 18 months in solitary confinement prior to his release in 2016.  Based on his experience of reentering society after a prolonged absence, he offered the following advice, “Be aware that we’ve all changed, whether consciously or not.  Not everything will return to the way it was before, so have patience with yourself and others.  For all we know, some of these changes may actually be improvements.”

Jason’s comment to have patience with others resonates with me, but not perhaps in the way he intended it.  His point is that it will take time to reestablish relationships both in terms of the timing and content.  Things will be different because the passage of time has changed us, and we should be patient to allow ourselves and others time to adjust to a new normal.

However, the kind of patience that comes to my mind involves self-control that can overlook a wrong.  This has been a struggle for me because I can be upset by even the most trivial of perceived offenses.  For example, someone breaks a promise, or doesn’t acknowledge something I have done, or makes a critical remark, or doesn’t smile when I walk by.  With any of these, feelings of disappointment, bitterness, and anger can appear and even thoughts of revenge begin to form.  This kind of impatience can metastasize into habits that are not easy to break.

All of this of course is contrary to the wisdom of Solomon who wrote, “It’s wisdom in a person’s life that keeps their patience strong; for it will make one’s glory shine to overlook a wrong.”  (Proverbs 19:11)  The NIV translation is “A person’s wisdom yields patience, it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”  Other versions say that “A person’s wisdom makes them slow to anger …”  The concept is clear – wisdom’s way is that when we feel offended, we should show patience by overlooking the matter.  Jesus says pretty much the same thing when Peter asks how many times he must forgive, I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”  (Matthew 18:22)

As our social interactions pick up, we have an opportunity to rethink and reform the old patterns of behavior.  To be less sensitive and defensive.  To be less petty and pouty.  In short, to be more understanding and forgiving.  According to Solomon, it is wisdom that makes this possible.  So how do we gain this wisdom?  The answer, I believe, is revealed in our deepest held beliefs.  It’s not that we don’t believe in overlooking offenses, but that we hold diametrically opposed beliefs that are stronger.  Let me explain.

In many matters we have conflicting beliefs.  These are not always apparent because what we articulate as our belief is not necessarily the deeper belief that controls our actions.  For example, there are some people who refuse to get vaccinated for the Covid virus based on their belief that medical science is not to be trusted.  However, these same people will seek the best medical care if they become sick.  Two diametrically opposed beliefs about medical science, where the dominant one is revealed when it matters most.

Now when it comes to overlooking an offense, I am like many Christians in believing that this is God’s will.  And yet, when offended, I inevitably react with impatience, defensiveness, and anger.  The reason is that I hold a contrary belief in a form of “justice” that responds to every wrong.  When things are going well, I am loath to admit that I believe in retaliation.  And yet that is precisely what is revealed when I feel offended.  I think, “what he said wasn’t right,” or “what she did wasn’t fair.”  And so I set out to defend myself.

Biblical wisdom is an unwavering commitment to the will of God.  This means that despite conflicting beliefs, if we desire the wisdom that results in spiritual growth, we must strive to make God’s way our dominate belief.  This is not easy because following God’s will does not come naturally to us.  What comes naturally is self-centeredness and self-protection.

So how does a Christian grow beyond impatience and anger?  This is classically the purpose of spiritual disciplines, such as prayer, guidance and community.  No doubt these are essential, but equally foundational is coming to the knowledge that our lives are measurably better when we overlook offenses.  I know what it is like to stew over some offense for days, plan retaliation for an injury received, and wallow in self-pity over some injustice.  And I don’t think I ever feel better afterward.  But I have also tasted the freedom that comes with overlooking slights and offenses caused by others.  Solomon expresses this freedom in terms of having life, “Those keeping fast the Lord’s commands, will live since they obey; but all will die who only keep, and follow their own way.”  (Proverbs 19:16)  There is freedom that comes from a forgiving heart, and if we truly love our life, we want to grow in wisdom.  Again, the words of Solomon, “To grow in wisdom is to love the life within one’s soul; to cherish understanding is to prosper in one’s goal.” (Proverbs 19:8)

We don’t overlook an offense because it is easy or feels good on the front end.  We do so because it is how we find freedom.  Every time I overlook an injustice done to me, I am free to love others as God loves me.  With anger just the opposite – walls rise up as my soul shrivels.

We come out of Covid with the possibility of a reset in our interactions with others.  Even in the best of relationships it is inevitable that there will come a time when something will be said or done that is hurtful.  But with a commitment to overlook offenses, true inner freedom is within our reach.

S

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1  Much better being one who’s poor,
and have integrity;
Than being rich with foolish lips,
that spew perversity.

2  To rashly act when knowledge lacks,
is certainly not good;
So anyone who acts in haste,
won’t go the way they should.

3  Through people’s own stupidity,
comes ruin for their way;
Yet in their hearts they blame the Lord,
for how they’ve gone astray.

4  While wealth and riches draw a crowd,
attracting many friends;
With poverty it’s opposite –
desertion’s how it ends.

5  A witness who won’t tell the truth,
is punished for their plea;
And one who falsely testifies,
will never be set free.

6  A number curry favor with,
a prince who’s generous;
And everyone would be a friend,
to a philanthropist.

7  The poor are shunned by relatives,
and spurned by every friend;
And though pursued and begged for help,
they’re missing in the end.

8  To grow in wisdom is to love,
the life within one’s soul;
To cherish understanding is,
to prosper in one’s goal.

9  A witness who won’t tell the truth,
will suffer discipline;
And one who falsely testifies,
will perish for their sin.

10  While luxury is out of place,
for one who is a fool;
Much worse when servants take command,
and over princes rule.

11  It’s wisdom in a person’s life,
that keeps their patience strong;
For it will make one’s glory shine,
to overlook a wrong.

12  The anger of a king is like,
a lion when it roars;
His favor though is like the dew,
that freshens and restores.

13  A foolish child brings suffering,
that is a father’s bane;
A nagging wife is like a roof,
that’s dripping from the rain.

14  A parent leaves a house and wealth,
when passing from this life;
But it’s the Lord whose hand provides,
a wise and prudent wife.

15  One’s unimpeded laziness,
brings on a heavy sleep;
While idleness breeds famishment,
with nothing for one’s keep.

16  Those keeping fast the Lord’s commands,
will live since they obey;
But all will die who only keep,
and follow their own way.

17  Those showing kindness to the poor,
are lending to the Lord;
And for the things that they have done,
He’ll give them a reward.

18  Now discipline your children while,
there’s hope that they can learn;
Or else you’re helping put them on,
a path of no return.

19  A wrathful man must pay the price,
for evening a score;
But rescue him and you will have,
to do it more and more.

20  Accept advice and discipline,
and counsel for your ways;
And you’ll acquire wisdom for,
the balance of your days.

21  A person’s heart has many plans,
that seem like they can’t fail;
But it’s the purpose of the Lord,
that always will prevail.

22  What people want the very most,
is love and loyalty;
It’s better to have nothing than,
to speak dishonestly.

23  To reverence and fear the Lord,
will yield a life that’s blessed;
Untouched by any suffering,
contented and at rest.

24  The lazy put their hand in food,
intending there to sup;
But will not bring it to their mouth,
or even lift it up.

25  When seeing mockers disciplined,
the foolish understand;
But those with wisdom learn when they,
receive a reprimand.

26  Whoever robs their family,
and drives their parents out;
Is surely a disgraceful son,
a prodigal and lout.

27  My child, if you stop listening,
to words you need to hear;
Then you will surely drift away,
from knowledge that is clear.

28  A witness who’s unprincipled,
makes fun of what is fair;
For one who’s set on wickedness,
spreads evil without care.

29  There’s condemnation preordained,
for those who mock and scorn;
And beatings destined for the back,
of every fool who’s born.

 

5 thoughts on “Proverbs 19

  1. Thanks, Scott for this encouragement to overlook wrongs, to take a long view, especially in this time when the spirit of division is in the land.

    I have struggled with this at times, especially knowing when to share my feelings of hurt or upset when people knowingly or unknowingly offend or hurt me. Feelings, of course, are neither right or wrong, they just are what they are. They are part of the relational currency we all use.

    Though you say you become upset by some trivial or perceived offenses, and that you react with impatience, defensiveness and anger, I have rarely seen this in you. Which makes me wonder…..

    When I was a young adult, I thought I was so devoted to the truth. It held the highest place for me. After I met the Lord, I understood more clearly that love is the highest goal (loving God and loving people). But then, because Jesus is the Truth, we could not follow Him without embracing truth. He showed me that though I spoke truth when it came to facts of a situation, I was not truthful with my emotions. I didn’t share what I was feeling. I let people believe I felt one way, or that an offense was slight, when inside I was very hurt or upset. It is very humbling to admit our hurt or upset, and often I wished I were a bigger person than I was, and that things didn’t bother me.
    We are all complex beings, with emotional and spiritual histories. We all have tender places in our souls. I think relationships can function without sharing our feelings, but they tend to become dry, and brittle, polite and proper. I am hoping that by learning to share my feelings, there can be more healing, freedom, comfort and intimacy. Obviously, not all upset, or offense needs to be addressed. Your encouragement to forgive, and overlook a wrong is right on. I think I have mentioned to you that I try to bring all offenses to the Lord and leave them there, but if, after a few times of leaving it at the altar, I get up from prayer and the offense still is shackled to my soul, then I know I need to say something.

    I don’t see this as conflicting beliefs.

    Apropos to the Covid vaccine, I will share a short story. In 1950, my mother refused to take a shot of DES when she was pregnant, though the doctor wanted to give it to her, and urged her to take it. Later, the medical profession found out that DES made the child in the womb infertile. I have children now because my mom had the courage to refuse to take a shot the doctor prescribed. Months later, she went to the hospital for delivery, and saw many doctors over the years. So, it was not that she didn’t believe in medicine. She weighed the information, and chose what she felt was right at the time. I benefited from her courage and wisdom.

    Thank you, Scott for the thoughtful, and thought provoking, encouraging reflections on the wisdom of God, and on forgiveness, and processing of hurts and wrongs. I have been praying for wisdom and understanding as I have been reading Proverbs 19, as well as Proverbs 2 recently. I love your phrasing, “To grow in wisdom is to love the life within one’s soul”. Also, the truth in “Accept advice and discipline and counsel for your ways, and you’ll acquire wisdom for the balance of your days”. Let it be Lord!

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    1. Joanie,

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I am grateful that you take the time to respond because it gives me other ways to think about what I am writing.

      One thing I am very aware of when writing is that I am doing so out of the limits of my own experience. But that is true for all of us to a certain extent, which is why hearing other voices is so important.

      Regarding Proverbs 19:11, I don’t believe that overlooking an offense is an absolute law. Rather I see it as a principle for godly living. It can’t be an absolute law because there are contrary verses in the Bible such as Matthew 18 where we are told to address matters where we have been sinned against. For me, confronting someone is actually much harder than holding it inside. The matter of overlooking an offense is therefore something that must take place in my heart or else I stew over the matter.

      How we handle our feelings is very important indeed. I remember Dallas Willard writing that there is no feeling that we experience that is not tied to an underlying belief. This has been incredibly helpful for me because it has made me focus on my beliefs. This puts a very fine point on Paul’s admonition to be transformed by the renewal of our mind. I say that this has been helpful for me, but it has also been terribly difficult at times. For example, many times that I have become angry at someone at a comment that they made because what I was thinking was that my pride was hurt. But it is not just thinking about my pride that has helped me, it is trying to be more understanding of the person making the comment. Perhaps the comment was carelessly made, or I understood it incorrectly, or it came out of some woundedness of the individual. I also consider the source. For example, I know absolutely that Pat has my best interests at heart so overlooking something she might say or do is pretty easy.

      I am not seeking to avoid all emotional distress because that would not be human, nor would it be possible. I find too that the deepest hurts from childhood are the most difficult ones to overcome. But difficult does not mean impossible with the power of God. I have shared in the past how the Spirit miraculously revealed and healed me from feelings of rejection from when I was very little. Actually, I should say “substantially healed” because there are still times when they surface.

      Well, this was a pretty rambling response. But thanks again for engaging.

      Scott

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      1. You’re welcome Scott. And, thanks again for the reminder to look at the thought that preceded the feeling. Those thoughts are often lies, for me anyway…since, even after years of walking with the Lord, I still find myself battling self-condemnation, shame, and at times self-hatred. All of which may be tied to pride.
        Have you heard of Carolyn Leaf? She’s a Christian psychologist whose website advertises a 21 day brain detox app. Also, there’s a Christian psychiatrist, Daniel Amen, who has a therapy to eliminate Automatic Negative Thoughts.
        In my CASA training I was fascinated at the session we had on brain development in Children. The description of what happens when a child’s brain experiences trauma in early life was eye opening to me. Violence, or even verbal fights between parents, can cause changes in brain processes.
        But what Daniel Amen discovered is that the brain is a changeable, healable organ. Praise God!!
        Your emphasis on examination of underlying beliefs that motivate our actions, (and generate emotions) highlights the part we play in the ‘working out of our salvation’.
        God is the one who does the healing, but He wants us to do our part. Help us Lord!

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  2. I am not familiar with the two people you mention, but there are a number of others, including Dallas Willard and NT Wright, who have greatly influenced my own spiritual journey. Here are some additional thoughts.

    1) I have no way of really understanding what a young child goes through who is subject to violence. I know that I was affected as a child because of conflict in my home. As well, I see things in my two brothers that I believe stem from our upbringing. And I hardly think of us as a dysfunctional family! So I can only imagine what the effect is on those who have really hard childhoods. I keep this thought before me when I write because I know that I can only write out of my own experience and I am reluctant to provide some glib advice to those who are struggling with demons from their past.

    2) I have no doubt that the mind is physically affected by what happens in childhood. For the most part, I agree that the brain is a changeable, healable organ as you put it. Indeed, my deepest held spiritual belief and underlying premise of my blog is that change is possible. And not only possible, but essential if we are to follow Jesus. And here I can speak from my own experience where I was miraculously healed from feelings of rejection and fear of conflict, which I have written about previously.

    3) If change were not possible, why does Jesus, Paul, and other voices from Scripture continue to tell us to live a certain kind of life? A life that first and foremost involves repentance – a turning from one way of living to another? I don’t think this can be too strongly emphasized. How else can we make sense of the Sermon on the Mount, or Jesus’ many other teachings on virtue? I heard a sermon today by John Mark Comer, who said something to the effect, “the kingdom of God is more than keeping the commandments, but never less.”

    4) Your comment about God wanting us to do our part is spot on, and is the reason we must pursue the virtuous life – always empowered by the Spirit. In the words of Willard, “We can do nothing without the Holy Spirit. But if we do nothing, it will be without the Spirit.”

    5) On a personal note, the fact that you are aware of and acknowledge the lies of self-condemnation, etc. is the first step towards a healing that you may be further along with than you see in yourself. Your volunteer work as a guardian ad litem is a reflection of your willingness to confront your past and move beyond. You are weak as we all are, but you are also an amazing woman of God who cares deeply about those around her.

    S

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