Part Two: Proverbs on Communication: Views of a Fool on Forgiveness, Anger and Lying
We started out this series of blogs on communication from the book of Proverbs in the Bible by looking at some of the verses on the word “fool.” I’m not sure why I started there. I must have been in a crotchety mood. The idea of “fool” in Proverbs is someone who does their own thing regardless of God’s guidance to us. He blunders along thinking that whatever he thinks and feels is right and everyone else is wrong. He’s self-deluded and proud of it. My point in the previous blog is that it does you no good to have communication techniques if you don’t have any moral fiber. You can have all the communication finesse in the world, but if you are lying, it won’t matter much. I also, interestingly, found that the word “communication” doesn’t occur in the Bible in modern translations (it occurs 8 times in the KJV), but the concept is there aplenty, so I thought it might be instructive for us to look at this ancient wisdom on the topic.
We left off in the middle of chapter 14, so here goes:
Proverbs 14:8 “The folly of fools is deception.” Here’s a rule of thumb: If you find yourself hiding anything from your spouse, you are on dangerous ground. The only thing you should hide is anniversary presents. If you are hiding anything else (porn, your computer use, text messages to co-workers, emails from your “friend,” money spending, your use of time, your alcohol or drug use, what you are eating), you aren’t being forthright and are headed down a path that could hurt you AND your spouse. If you are out to deceive, the person you hurt the most is yourself. One of the major benefits of marriage is that we are all one decision, one step, one click away from destruction, from succumbing to temptation. The power of temptation is the secret. Talking about your weaknesses with your spouse will give you fortitude and resolve. Hiding them is like hooking up an amplifier and loudspeaker to them in your brain and they will get louder and louder and more persistent. Stop it with the lying already. It’s time to be forthright about your weaknesses and supportive of each other in whatever struggles (We all have them!) you have. Lying about them will only send the message to your spouse that you don’t want her to have anything to do with you, that you don’t need her and that you can’t be trusted. Then, lying creates a whole other set of problems.
Proverbs 14:9 “Fools mock at making amends for sin.” Being self-righteous is an obnoxious thing. If you are right, of course, you don’t ever have to apologize. Nor listen to anyone else’s opinion. You can sit and play with your navel all day because no one else will be necessary. No one is always right. How is it that you are always right? How’d that ever happen? Oh, your problems are everyone else’s fault? How lucky for you. Come on. Man up. No one can go through marriage without hurting his spouse. How is your spouse ever supposed to feel close to you if you never admit you are wrong? Do you know how obnoxious it is to be married to someone who is right all the time? And you say you are just stubborn? Stubborn? Like this is a good thing? You want that for a personal characteristic? How about repenting of it and scouring your life of it? Or these people that tell me they just don’t forgive people. That’s great. Hold grudges your whole life? Let every shortcoming that’s ever been done to you by everyone be in your face everyday and remind yourself how everyone has abused you and mistreated you and take offense at everything everyday and in everyway and while you are at it let everyone know how they’ve harmed your poor little feelings. Do this as a lifestyle and see how many friends you have. Spouses for that matter. If you never make up, if you never admit you are wrong, if you never forgive, if you never let anything go, won’t you be fun to talk to? People will be waiting in line….to leave.
Proverbs 14:16 “A fool is hot-headed and reckless.” Somewhere else the Bible says that our anger doesn’t fulfill the righteousness of God. And God told Cain that anger wanted to “have” Cain and that Cain needed to master anger. Cain didn’t master anger and became our first murderer, but the message is clear: You’ve got two choices: Master anger or let it master you. If it masters you, you will be a curse to yourself and your family. Woe to the family that has to endure the wrath of a fool. In still another place the Bible says to be angry and sin not. There’s a good and bad side of anger. The good side is, anger tells us there is something wrong. The bad side it tells us to get even. Woe to the couple where both partners are operating on THAT principal: You hurt me; I’ll hurt you. Then, of course, you will feel compelled to hurt me back, because you ain’t gonna take no crap, right? Note the tie-in above in our verse: A fool is BOTH hot-headed AND reckless. Anger leads you to say and do things that you wouldn’t do if you were calm and rationally thinking things through. These are things you can’t take back. You’ve already done them. Humpty-Dumpty has already fallen and no one can put him back together again. Anger tells you there are no consequences. Anger silences your conscience and replaces it with stupidity. As Frederick Buechner writes anger is a feast, but the feast you are eating is yourself.
Proverbs 14:17 “A quick-tempered man does foolish things, and a crafty man is hated.” The next verse after verse 16 in the previous paragraph, picks up this problem of anger and kicks it up a notch: Anger not only causes you to be reckless and do foolish things, it causes the people you do them to (Like your wife or husband or your kids, mostly, right? How is it you can shut off anger at work? What’s that about?) to hate you. Really. Hate? Isn’t that too strong a word? Well, look: Family interaction theory was supposed to have been articulated in the 1950’s (how you treat someone will affect how he treats you), but here we have Solomon saying 3000 years ago that anger comes across to the recipient as hate, so the recipient is going to hate in return. Did you know that? Your anger comes across as hate. It doesn’t cause your loved ones to get all cushy and warm in the cockles of their heart when they think of you, or that, yes, you are indeed right, and thank you very much for being so definitive in bringing this point across to me so forcefully, if, whenever you are ticked, you let your mouth and actions fly, because that’s just who you are. To be on the receiving end of your anger is no fun and you are planting seeds of animosity in your family members, so don’t be surprised when there’s a crop of animosity in return when you end up on the receiving end. Anger breeds animosity. Anger doesn’t bring comfort, understanding, mutual regard or caring or any positive trait that might actually help you and your family. The Bible says, “Blessed are the peacemakers” not “Blessed are those that articulately let everyone know in no uncertain terms that they are right and everyone else is stupid.” NO. You aren’t blessed if you let anger wrangle your soul like that and neither are your poor, unfortunate, loved ones. Hey, God gave you your loud voice to yell in case of an emergency. If you yell all the time your family will tune you out (and hate you, also) and when there is an emergency, they may very well not listen to you then, either, to their own destruction, and then you can get all self-righteous about that, too.
…To be continued…