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Separating Truth from Emotion

Anger is cruel, and fury is overwhelming,

but who can survive jealousy?

Open criticism is better than unexpressed love.

Wounds made by a friend are intended to help,

but an enemy’s kisses are too much to bear. (Proverbs 27:4-6 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 27:1-16 GW)


It can be hard to separate truth from emotion—whether it’s the emotion of the speaker of truth or the emotion of the hearer. Our human tendency is to react rather than listen and consider what we hear before responding.

Too often, we allow our emotions to drive us but emotions cloud and even corrupt how we hear or say things. And so, the meaning or intention of what’s said is obscured or filtered through the emotions of the speaker or the hearer or both.

The ability to separate emotion from words of truth is a valuable quality. Discernment and discretion are needed to gain this ability. The intention of the book of Proverbs, as made clear in the beginning (Prov 1:1-7), is to help a person gain this ability.

Strong emotions

The first verse of these selected verses in Chapter 27 gives us a sense for why emotions cloud our understanding of what is said by others. Words spoken in anger have an intent to hurt, put down, or belittle a person. The phrase—lashed out in anger—describes the cruel intent of words spoken in anger—like the snap of a whip burning or slicing the skin.

Fury is out of control anger—unrestrained like a flood of water or a raging fire. But jealousy is an irrational and untamed emotion. A combination of hate and love. It’s destructive. This brings the question—who can survive jealousy?

It destroys any relationship with its impact on both the jealous person and the one who’s the focus of the jealousy. As one person put it—jealousy [is] jaundice of the soul. Jealousy is like a disease with trust and truth its only cure.

Understanding the impact and power emotion has on words spoken and heard helps give insight for the other two verses—5-6.

You might wonder—How can open criticism be better than expressed love? One simple observation is the former is known while the latter is hidden. But it’s deeper than that. Love is left unexpressed because of fear or indifference. There may be other reasons for love to remain unexpressed but it’s still an unknown truth.

Criticism—even when it comes across in a harsh manner—is more or less an observation. As a pastor, I’ve heard plenty of criticism over the years. It goes with the work and position. When said, it was often not intended to be beneficial nor expressed in a constructive way. But it was expressed.

Learning to separate truth from emotion

I had to learn to hear it in an objective way. As the expression goes—chew the meat and spit out the bones. It’s hard to extract the truth from criticism or a rebuke or a reprimand unless it’s detached from emotions.

In other words, although hard to do, don’t take it all to heart. If we can learn from criticism and correction, we’ll gain insight and wisdom. If we can’t, we lose an opportunity to grow beyond our self—beyond self-focus, selfishness, self-pity and so on.

This is especially true when it comes from someone close to us—Wounds made by a friend are intended to help.

The last two phrases of the third verse brings Jesus to mind for me. Reading through the gospels it’s hard not to notice Jesus used some strong words with His followers. They get rebuked and reprimanded for spiritual dullness (Matt 15:16) and for missing the point—the greater concern (Matt 16:8-12; Mark 10:13-16).

Jesus can also relate to the second half of the last verse. He was betrayed with a kiss by one of His followers (Judas). Betrayal is similar to jealousy because it’s insidious. It’s indefensible. Not only is betrayal cowardly, a person can’t defend them self or prevent it because it’s secretive and underhanded.

Except Jesus. Jesus knew He would be betrayed and knew His betrayer. He even washed His betrayer’s feet the night He was betrayed. Once again, Jesus shows us He can relate to everything we experience in this life—even flattery and betrayal.

It’s a valuable ability to separate truth from emotion just as Jesus did.

Reflection—

It’s a valuable ability to separate truth from emotion. We need wisdom, self-control, discernment, and discretion not to be ruled by our emotions or someone else’s. The wisdom of Proverbs can be helpful and valuable to gain these qualities and gain this valuable ability.

Prayer Focus—

When you find it difficult to hear criticism or correction, ask God to help you sift through what is said without your emotions or the other person’s emotions clouding what may be helpful insights. Remember, the Lord knows what it’s like to be criticized and betrayed. Trust in Him.

©Word-Strong_2019


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Rise—Flee into Egypt

Photo by  Inbal Malca  on  Unsplash

Photo by Inbal Malca on Unsplash

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’  

And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt.” (Matthew 2:13-14)

God speaks in a dream

It was some time after Jesus had been born—just after the wisemen departed—that Joseph was given this dream warning him to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt. King Herod had received word of the newly born King of the Jews, the Messiah, and he was fully set on destroying Him.

It was at this crucial time that God spoke to Joseph in a dream for a second time.

Before Jesus was born, Joseph had heard from God in a dream, instructing him to take Mary as his wife. That dream had come at a time of sorrow and distress for Joseph. He had been suffering the confusion and disappointment of a broken relationship with his new bride.

It was in that moment that God spoke to Joseph, bringing words of comfort, reassurance, and direction. And Joseph had listened. 

The 2nd dream

This dream was different. Joseph and Mary were unaware of the wicked plans laid out for their new son. When Joseph was given this dream warning him to take his family and escape by night to a foreign country, it would have been alarming and unexpected.

But God knew that Joseph was obedient, and he had already tested Joseph through the first dream He had given him long before. 

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When God speaks to us, do we listen?

Even in the small things, the Holy Spirit is continually speaking to our hearts—convicting, correcting, directing, and encouraging us in our journey of faith.

When we hear His voice in our heart, it is crucial that we develop a pattern of obedience. Because when we listen to His voice in the small things, we create a life that is built on faith and obedience.

When we listen to God’s voice in the small things—we create a life that is built on faith and obedience

Faith and obedience

Faith and obedience are qualities that grow within us the more we practice and apply them.

Just as Joseph listened and obeyed God by taking Mary as his wife, he also listened when God told him to do something far more urgent, even if it didn’t make sense to him at the time.

Let’s trust the Holy Spirit when He speaks to our hearts and respond in faith and obedience in the simple things. And may God give us the faith that we need to follow Him wherever He leads us.

May God give us the faith we need to follow Him wherever He leads us


This is a guest post by Laura Williams whose husband (Daniel) pastors Redemption Church in Delray Beach, FL

This devotional is taken from Laura’s Advent devotional– God’s Plan for Christmas

Daniel also produced an online leadership resource– EELeaders

Smoother Than Oil, Bitter As Wormwood

Some advice in Proverbs is pointed. Figurative language is used but the point made is hard to ignore, especially considering the author. King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. He knew a thing or two about women (1 Kings 11:3).

Though he was a great king and wise man, his heart was turned away from God to the idolatry of all his wives. He allowed their influence and their desire to rule in his life. So he turned away from the God whom he knew to be true and from the wise truth he spoke and wrote.

Wisdom Calls Out

Personification brings an abstract and conceptual thought more real and relatable. Wisdom is often personified as a woman in Proverbs as a means of illustration, which I mentioned in an earlier post and in my study guide for Proverbs.

Personification makes things more personal, like BB King's guitar named Lucille and Willie Nelson's guitar Trigger. Ships and cars are often referred to as if feminine and sometimes characters or caricatures serve to personalize an attitude like Dickens' Scrooge and Dr. Seuss' Grinch

What God Wants

"What does God want from me?" People often ask this question as if there's no clear answer.

But there is.

This question is asked many times out of frustration (or irritation) when things don't go well, or don't go as expected or wanted.