While reading through the Proverbs, I found myself thinking about modern methods of communication and even argument. Just for fun, then, here are a few thoughts that cross my mind, simply in verse order, from Proverbs 26 which I think could help me, and perhaps you, in our interactions.
Proverbs 26:2 – Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying, a curse that is causeless does not alight.
First we see this gem. In life, we will have people, from time to time, speak out against us, Perhaps we will have someone hurl an insult our way. The question we should ask ourselves before taking the insult to heart is this: Is it true? Is what the person has said about you accurate? If a person hurls an insult or curse your way, but in truth, the insult has no basis in reality, you should happily be able to let it go. It is like a bird that flies over your head and never lands. An undeserved curse does not come to rest.
Proverbs 26:4-5 – 4 Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. 5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.
These two verses must be taken in tandem. If you look at them together, you see a problem. Verse 4 tells you not to answer a fool according to his folly. Verse 5 tells you that you must answer a fool according to his folly. Some try to read a difference in the two kinds of answers given. But I think that there is something simpler going on here. The Lord is telling us that there is often not a correct way to answer when a person is a fool. Fools put you in impossible situations. If you do not answer, they think they are wise. If you do answer, you end up being dragged into the mud.
In your social interactions, try not to be this fool. Try not to spout off and put people in the awkward position of having to weigh the pros and cons of correcting the careless things you say or post. The Lord does not want us to be foolish, and that is quite often the point of verses in Proverbs.
Proverbs 26:17 – Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears.
It is almost never helpful to jump into a social media argument. The proverb here tells us that it is almost never safe to jump into anyone else’s argument. If a person seizes a dog by the ears, he is likely to find himself in pain. Similarly, when we jump into the arguments of others, we are likely to find ourselves attacked.
So, when living life, especially on social media, recognize that diving into a thread of conversation has a good likelihood of going wrong. In my own experience, I have seldom seen a comment thread that leads to people agreeing on a topic where they started off at odds. But I certainly have seen those threads get nasty and personal. So, the point is to beware. Don’t jump in without knowing the risk. And thus be sure that you know that you only jump in when it matters. Otherwise, see verses 2 and 4 above.
Proverbs 26:18-19 – 18 Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death 19 is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I am only joking!”
Have you ever noticed how people today like to say insulting or harsh things and then think they can make it all OK by indicating that they are joking? Consider how many ugly text messages that you have received that end with “LOL” or some sort of emoji. This proverb says to us that a person who does such a thing is a person who does major damage. Do not shoot from cover, hurt people, and then think you are OK because you ended a nasty comment with a smilie. Be honest, and do not try to cover up your actions by pretending humor that is really not there. And be careful with humor, as it is extremely difficult to communicate your heart or your tone in writing.
We could come up with many more points for interaction from the Proverbs. IN fact, I could have written several more from this chapter alone. But Let us simply allow these cautions to lead us to consider well how we interact. Let’s be wise. Let’s confront when it is necessary. But Let’s also be gracious and take seriously how we speak to one another, even from a keyboard. Sometimes, ignoring a thread is better than jumping in. Sometimes a phone call would be better than a text that cannot communicate your heart.