He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit.Proverbs 17:27
The sparing of words and a calm spirit. I wish I could say this is me. But alas, it is not. Too many times I have spewed out words like the breaking of a dam. And every single time, I have later regretted it. And though, I strive for a calm spirit, the mastery over my emotions has been a lifetime battle.
Should I exclaim, “Woe is me,” having neither knowledge nor understanding? Not yet. All is not lost. I realize my shortcomings. Now, I must continue to practice. Practice—what I need to master both tongue and spirit.
Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; when he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.Proverbs 17:28
A coworker once told me the reason he doesn’t speak much. When I first posed this question to him when he was a still a teenager, he gave me this profound answer, “I don’t want to sound like an idiot.” His words echoed of ancient wisdom. He is no fool that keeps his mouth shut. So much I have yet to learn!
The thorns tore at my skin, ripping my uniform to shreds. Every step was slow and treacherous. The last thing I wanted to do was go down. I looked at my watch; time was ticking. My next checkpoint was just ahead. As a young soldier, I was inexperienced at land navigation. Therefore, I found myself tangled in a field of thorns.
As the years went by, I did eventually get better. With practice and experience, I learned to stay out of the briar patch.
The way of the lazy man is like a hedge of thorns, but the way of the diligent is a highway.Proverbs 15:19
The lazy man may never know it, because once he is stuck, he doesn’t have the drive to extricate himself. He doesn’t know that if he keeps going, the way will get easier. This is true in any endeavor we undertake. If we allow laziness to creep in, we will find ourselves tangled and unable to move. Only through diligence and persistence, can we find ourselves travelling in an easier fashion. Discipline equals freedom (Jocko Willink). And in this case, discipline is needed to get started and to keep going.
Meet Bob. Bob has a good job that pays a big salary. He has a big house, a fancy car, and amazing purchasing power. He has all the latest gadgets, goes on exotic vacations, and will gladly display all of his wealth.
On the surface, it appears Bob has it all. However, appearances are deceiving. He has a mortgage on his big house. A lease on his fancy car, and his purchasing power is due to his large lines of credit. If he were to lose his job, how would he pay all his bills? In fact, he can never leave his job as it provides the only means for his lifestyle. Bob has made himself a slave to his possessions.
There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing; and one who makes himself poor, yet has great riches.Proverbs 13:7
Bob’s life is full of stress. He and his family are used to the good life. Anything below it is unacceptable. He might look rich, but he has nothing.
What kind of stress does the rich man have when he lives below his means? What kind of stress does any of us have if we live below our means? Of course, we may not have the big, fancy, and newest possessions, but how important is all that stuff anyway.
I close the book, turn off the lamp, and shut my eyes. It has a been a long day and sleep is what I want most in this moment. One minute in and then two minutes. I am almost there, so close to falling asleep. A stray thought crosses my mind. The gym I am building is behind schedule. I know, I know, but I can’t do anything about it right now. Yet, I still think about it. How soon before it is ready? I try my best to dismiss it and go to sleep. Okay, it is gone, but then…
- I have two blog posts I want to write in the morning,
- I am behind on the fitness course I am taking,
- I have yet to begin round two of the book edits,
- Autumn is coming, there is still a lot to do to prepare for it,
- If I don’t get to sleep soon, my morning workout will suffer,
- What kind of bathroom am I going to install in the new gym? Yes, back to the gym. Like a hamster on a wheel, so turns my mind. Thoughts come; thoughts go. Around and around.
Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.Proverbs 12:25
Anxiety. Stress about the future. If I can’t get out of the future and focus on the task at hand (sleep), then I am doomed. Depression is only another few hamster-wheel revolutions away.
The present moment is all I have. I did what I could during the day. That should be enough. I cannot worry about tomorrow. No anxiety, only sleep.
There is a second part to this verse. A good word makes the heart glad. The philosophers of the past that speak to me today through their writings suggest I am on the right path. Friends and family tell me the same thing. I would have cause for worry if I spent my days doing nothing. I don’t, and therefore, most of my anxiety is unwarranted. My heart is glad.
And here is the good word for you, my friend. So long as you stay on the path and do what you know in your heart as the right thing to do, then you have no need of worry. Take each day as is comes and save the future for when it gets here.
When you read a book, the conversation is one-way. You cannot influence what the author is going to say on the next page. If there was such a thing as listening with the eyes, this would be it.
If I can keep my comments to myself, actively listen, and ask the right questions, I can learn from the one I am conversing with. If I really want to know what it is they have to say, this is my key to finding out.
When you talk, you are repeating something you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.Dalai Lama
To acquire knowledge, one must learn how to listen, with and without the ears. The mouth cannot listen. Calling it the “trap” is an excellent metaphor. Not only can it trap us into a bad situation, but it can trap us from gaining knowledge.
Wise people store up knowledge, but the mouth of the foolish is near destruction.Proverbs 10:14
We know the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom [Proverbs 1:7]. Yet the question remains: How do you fear the Lord? Are we supposed to walk on eggshells throughout our existence hoping we don’t get struck down at any moment? That kind of life is no life at all. Thankfully, Solomon gave us a clue as to what this means.
The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate.Proverbs 8:13
Hate evil! Such a simple thing to say, but do we take it to heart? If we did, would it change the songs we listen to on the radio where perversity and evil ways are celebrated? How about the things we see on film where the villain is often portrayed as cool and enviable? If we hated evil would not these things be despised rather than embraced?
For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and He ponders all his path.Proverbs 5:21
This is my belief: God is watching me. Maybe at times, He even nudges me here or there, but ultimately, He is observing. Is this flawed human able to make good choices? It could even be that God reads my life like a novel. I wonder if the story of my life can make the bestseller’s list in heaven.
I don’t actually know if He watches me. In fact, He may not, yet I still believe it. And based on my belief, I try to live my life in a way as if I am being watched. This is why I have shame when I make a poor choice when no one is watching. This is why I try to put a limit on my ego. If there is no hiding from His sight, then I must do my best to keep the book of my life as pleasurable to read as possible.
It is not a beautiful list. In fact, six of them God hates. And as for those who don’t believe in God, this list still must be considered because if you are on it you will be at odds with anybody you encounter.
Hopefully, you are not on this list. Some might check a box or two. If this is you, all is not lost. You can still make some changes. You might even be able to remove the ink mark from the box which also stains your soul.
There are six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to him:
- A proud look,
- A lying tongue,
- Hands that shed innocent blood,
- A heart that devised wicked plans,
- Feet that are swift in running to evil,
- A false witness who speaks lies, and
- One who sows discord among brethren.
There is a guy who has really been bothering me lately. He is loud, arrogant, and difficult to be around. Unfortunately, I work with him and therefore am around him often.
I want to attack so badly. I know it is petty, but this is the desire of the base animal within me. I want to find and exploit his weaknesses in the hopes he will go away. But nothing I imagine will solve the problem. In fact, if I was to ever act on these impulses the opposite is likely to occur.
Do not strive with a man without cause, if he has done you no harm.Proverbs 3:30
I love the above verse because it reminds me of so much. I think Arnold Bennett put it best when he stated, “Your own mind is a sacred enclosure into which nothing harmful can enter -except by your permission.” My antagonist is winning, whether he knows it or not, because I have allowed him entry into my mind. Nothing can harm me unless I give it permission. By thinking about this person and dwelling on the things he says and does, I have given him an open port to my brain. The harm he has done me is not his fault, it is mine. Instead of striving with him, I must do a better job of securing my mind’s firewall.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. -Proverbs 1:7
What does it mean to fear the Lord? In the Old Testament, the Israelites had the Ten Commandments. In addition to those basic laws, there was a whole host of precepts one had to follow. At first glance, it seemed to have been a super-strict society void of the joy of life. But keep in mind, these laws were given to a people who spent decades wandering around in the wilderness. They had food, water, and shelter, yet they complained non-stop. Given half a chance, they would melt all their gold and start worshipping cows.
Violation of the laws meant punishment. So, for Solomon, the first key to knowledge was simply put as “Fear the Lord.” Might as well just say, “Fear the Law,” which was given to us by the Lord. This is not much different than fearing the laws today that our government has put into place.
You know who doesn’t fear the law? Fools. They have been instructed in what is right and wrong, yet they choose to break the law anyway.
The beginning of knowledge is this: There are consequences for your actions. If one was to sin against what they know in their hearts is right, they may not enjoy what comes next.
As for the Ten Commandments, you might not remember what they are anymore. After all, our schools no longer teach them. But when Jesus was asked which was the greatest of the laws, He stated two:
- You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and
- You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:34-40)
How can you go wrong if you can obey those two?