Proverbial Wisdom 4: Words & Anger
I’m a wordsmith. I love words. I shape them like the blacksmith shapes iron. No one knows better than me the power of words, both for good and for ill. Proverbs provides ample evidence for this truth, and much else, but knowing is very different from always applying. Far too often I find my temper expressing words that should have been reserved, and just as often I wrongly withhold words that could have blessed. Sometimes deliberately, sometimes not.
Some truths have to be relearnt. No matter how well you think you know them, be humble enough to keep going back to God and re-learning. That’s life: taking a lifetime to learn the simplest things because they’re actually quite hard. Discretion and discernment are two traits that I wish to grow swiftly in, so that my command of words may be better deployed. Here are some verses that underpin these reflections, and more besides.
Proverbs 12:18 says that “The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” I look back on past conversations and see that my words have often been sharp enough to wound people, and I regret each and every instance. Instead wisdom should have focused on healing, the words that bind up and build up. “How good is a timely word”, says Proverbs 15:23. A well-spoken word can address years of hurt and insecurity. As God’s words bring us healing, so through our Spirit-guided words He can bring healing to others. Let each of us prayerfully consider what those words should be, and who needs to hear them.
Proverbs 13:3 says “Those who guard their lips preserve their lives, but those who speak rashly will come to ruin.” Our lips shouldn’t be an open door that words can pass through freely. Instead, we need to guard them as well as any medieval baron keeping watch over his castle’s threshold. Each word and sentiment should be vetted and challenged, and boy is that a hard habit to enshrine. But doing so is so important. The failure to do so will cause great hurt and damage: rash = ruin. Instead, vigilance = preservation. Not just in terms of survival, but thriving too. We preserve the good things in life, whether relationships or opportunities, by guarding our lips.
Proverbs 17:14 says “Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.” Almost I find this one the hardest to keep by. I’m so argumentative, so opinionated. I love a good debate and I’m too slow to overlook sleights, real or imagined. Some of you may have even seen some of the epic Facebook debates I’ve had over the years, some quite fun and others less so. This verse applies to the digital sphere as well as to real life. It’s easier to begin a quarrel than to end one. The dam, once burst, unleashes havoc. Let the little things go. We’ve got to pick our battles, as I wrote admiringly of Isaac. If you must debate, save it for the really important things, where a principle needs defending.
Finally, Proverbs 10:12 says “Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.” I love this verse. Love covers over all wrongs. It is a picture of God’s love, expressed in and through Jesus, covering over all our sins. The enormous rubbish heap of sin in each and every one of our lives is far too extensive to be covered by anything except the boundless ocean of God’s grace. Having been so covered, we are all called to love likewise. I don’t know for sure what that looks like – I’m still working on the application. Maybe you know? At least think about it. How can we avoid conflicts in the first place, and bring peace to those that have already broken out?
That’s it for now. So much more could be said, but I’m trying to keep these posts brief and digestible. All I’ve said boils down to this: God’s wisdom will show the way. Listen to His voice to know what all this stuff looks like in practice. But whatever you do, keep delving into God’s word, keep chasing after wisdom. Why? Remember what wisdom says of herself:
“For whoever finds me finds life and receives favour from the Lord.” (Proverbs 8:35)
This is the fourth and final part of a 4-part mini-series on the Book of Proverbs. Follow these links to read parts one, two and three. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Check out my Genesis series, if you haven’t already done so. Or, alternatively, watch out for my Job series coming very soon. It’s gonna be good!