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Posts Tagged ‘understanding’

Keep Your Cool

August 17th, 2016

Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. (Proverbs 17:27)

I do not know about you but I needed to hear this verse today. I probably need to hear it every day.

Our quick and angry reaction reveals our weakness of character. Wisdom teaches us to not react emotionally or to judge situations harshly or rashly but with patience. Francis of Assisi’s prayer asked, “Grant that I may not seek … to be understood, but to understand.” Wisdom keeps its cool, looks at situations carefully and seeks to understand them.

Often we react quickly in anger due to unresolved issues in ourselves – personal fears, unresolved guilt, emotional wounds from our past, the pain of shame. These filters or “lenses” distort what we hear from others, making it either worse than intended or perhaps causing us to feel we must accept the unacceptable.

Stress is another “listener-killer” and when we feel overwhelmed and cannot seem to meet the demands on us, we put forward a defense mechanism of stereo-typing others. This means we shut people down, cease listening to them as individuals, lump together in our minds with others who we also see negatively. Often these others are from our distant past and have no real relevance to our daily lives, except through our memories.

Burn-out is another “listener-killer” and we begin to think too highly of ourselves, feeling that we are indispensable, unappreciated, and disrespected. So the lens of our personal ego comes up and we begin to be irritated at people.

How do we go forward in this area? Two things: first, stop shutting people down and second, start opening ourselves up.

James addressed the importance of stopping the anger from rising in us when he wrote, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:19-20). We have all seen the harm that anger does to relationships. Anger shuts down our willingness to hear others, so get rid of your anger.

This is harder than we may think and requires some introspection. Stop for a moment and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the cause of your anger. Is it from a pain you experienced years ago? Is it only a mask for fear? God does not want you to live in anger and fear and take the matter to God in prayer, letting him search you through his scriptures and by his Spirit.

The words that Paul wrote address the positive side of relationships – to genuinely consider others as more significant than ourselves: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4). There is no circumstance or relationship that genuine love cannot improve. Speak the truth but seek to speak it in love.

I have found that the more successful the person in life, the more patient and considerate of others he (or she) is. The higher up the ladder you go, as a rule, the kinder and more understanding the person.

The wise man is slow to anger, quick to understand, loving in his relationships, compassionate toward others in his thoughts, and calm and thoughtful in his responses. What would happen to your relationships if you practiced love, if you sought in your heart to consider others as more significant than yourself? Certainly we have our obligations, even our areas of expertise where we know something than others do not know, and those we cannot surrender to another’s uninformed opinion out of courtesy. But in every situation we can still be gracious and patient, seeking to understand more than just to be understood.

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The Proverbs of Solomon

August 1st, 2016

The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:

To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight,
to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth—
Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance,
to understand a proverb and a saying,
the words of the wise and their riddles. (Proverbs 1:1-6)

Solomon’s heart cried out for wisdom as a young man, and it it still the right thing to desire for us today. The passing of 3,000 years have not changed our need; in fact, if anything, it has increased it! The only way to fix humanity is to fix people. The only way to make society wise is to make individual members of society wise. In that sense every person has an obligation – both to himself and to society at large – to become a wise person. When you and I, at any age, seek to become wiser we are choosing the path of blessing – both for ourselves and for others.

Note the many words he used to describe wisdom:

Wisdom – the whole of biblical teaching that shows us ourselves and God

Instruction – the teaching that reveals the different parts of wisdom

Insight – the teaching that enlightens our understanding of human behavior

Instruction in wise dealing – the practical teaching that tells us how wise people should act

Righteousness – maintaining the standard of God

Justice – doing what is right for others

Equity – doing what is right and fair in all situations and for all people. The word is related to the Hebrew word mishra which denotes rewards, punishments, and equity in all of society.

Prudence – to understand what is right in each situation. This contains the idea of simple honesty, to be the same through and through.

Knowledge – the wisdom of what is right

Discretion – the awareness of how to identify and negotiate deceptions

These teachings tell us about the nature of god, his holiness and knowledge. He is knowledgeable in all aspect of the human heart – knowing both what He had originally designed us to be and how sin has impacted us. His knowledge is also redemptive in nature, teaching us how to negotiate the treacherous waters of this fallen world. There is much to learn here if we will live righteously, joyfully, and helpfully to others.

Christ used the illustration about the mote or speck in our brother’s eye.

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matt. 7:3-5)

Consider how much this parable of Christ has to say about the book of Proverbs, the pursuit of wisdom. We can help no one without first gaining wisdom ourselves, and wisdom tells us not only about what is right, but how to understand what is right, how to apply what is right, and how to achieve what is right.

In heaven we shall “know perfectly just as we are perfectly known” (1 Cor. 13:12). The wisdom of Proverbs shall be implanted in our hearts. But until that day we must learn and grow and commit ourselves to being wise people.

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