Before destruction a person’s heart is arrogant,
but humility comes before honor.
Whoever gives an answer before he listens is stupid and shameful.
The first to state his case seems right
⌊until⌋ his neighbor comes to cross-examine him. (Proverbs 18:12-13, 17 GW)
(Context—Proverbs 18:9-19 GW)
How can we know something is true or false—not just in the media but in everyday life? If it’s things in general related to public life, several fact-checking sites exist where you can, well… check to see if something is factual.
But these sites don’t help with our everyday interactions with people. You could study body language indicators but these are highly dependent on interpretation and subject to individual bias.
An old saying goes, “there’s two sides to every story” or “…two sides to every coin.” Actually, it’s likely there are three sides. Each person has their version of an event or situation and the truth may be somewhere in between their versions.
At first glance, these first two verses don’t seem connected but they share a common thread—character based on attitude of the heart. Humility—genuine humility—governs our emotions and thoughts instead of them governing us. So, humility helps us respond rather than react.
Arrogance blinds a person from seeing anything but their own point of view. It numbs their ability to hear anything but their own opinions and thoughts.
Arrogance blinds and numbs a person
Humility helps us respond rather than react
Humility helps a person to be aware and alert. Instead of listening to the loudest voice, those who are humble listen for what is not being said and for another point of view. They look for what resides between two extremes and are patient enough to listen for the rest of the story.
This is the main point of verse 17—
The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him. (ESV)
I had to learn this the hard way as a young pastor. When people I trusted would be bring their concerns about the church, I tended to jump into action to rectify the perceived problem.
I learned to be less impetuous and more patient and willing to pursue more information from others sources—especially those involved in these concerns—to avoid being hasty and foolish.
I found considerate and probing questions revealed a bigger picture and more complete story than relying on one person’s view of an issue.
Though I learned this lesson long ago, I can still engage in knee-jerk reactions rather than maintaining a calmer attitude of heart and humble mindset.
This is an important lesson we all need to be reminded of… often. It’s a lesson to apply in all facets of life, especially relationships where we tend to be more reactive than wise—at home, at work, and especially in social media.
If we don’t heed this lesson, we only have ourselves to blame for being led astray by false news, false accusations, or false concerns. So, ask yourself and others the hard questions—the ones likely to reveal a fuller picture and story, whatever the issue.
When you hear something unsettling or hard to accept, make a point to get more information, consider other points of view, and ask considerate but probing questions. This can help keep you from unnecessary worrying, jumping to conclusions, or reacting in the moment. Humility and wisdom are honorable and peaceable virtues.
If you are impetuous or quick to be concerned about what you hear or see, make a point of asking the Lord to give you discernment and wisdom before you react. You might need to ask God to help you many times throughout a day.
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