Sometimes I think that King Solomon must have been familiar with Facebook. I’ve been reading through Proverbs. Solomon may have written down his wisdom thousands of years ago, but it’s anything but out of date. In fact, some proverbs apply more now than ever before.
Take Proverbs 9:7-8 for example.
Whoever corrects a mocker invites insults;
whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse.
Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you;
rebuke the wise and they will love you.
Do we have mockers on social media? Have you ever read the comments after a controversial (or not-so-controversial) article? People seem to think that because you aren’t speaking face to face, it’s permissible to say anything, no matter how obnoxious. Others respond, and the “dialog” escalates into a virtual shouting match. Ugh.
I’ve seen many cases of what appear to be well meaning Christians responding to rude, hateful statements. What they write is true, but it does no good. Their comments just invite insults and abuse. Solomon had it exactly right.
And if you happen to be the one doing the mocking, consider these proverbs:
If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you;
if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer. (9:12, italics mine)
Whoever derides their neighbor has no sense,
but the one who has understanding holds their tongue. (11:12)
The prudent keep their knowledge to themselves,
but a fool’s heart blurts out folly. (12:23)
Fools find no pleasure in understanding
but delight in airing their own opinions. (18:2)
Then there’s Proverbs 10:12—
Hatred stirs up conflict,
but love covers over all wrongs.
It seems that there’s a lot of hatred in circulation, even from those promoting love. It’s almost as if we assume our position is the only loving one, and everyone who disagrees with us is being hateful. And yes, the result is conflict.
So what should we do when we see someone posting something that we strenuously disagree with? Should we let them get away with it?
For one thing, they just might be right. It’s much easier to only surround ourselves with those we agree with. Their posts vindicate our opinions. Affirmation feels good. But if we are never willing to examine our opinions, how do we know they’re right? Can we articulate our views, and support them with vetted facts? Can they? I regularly read articles from the “other side” to see if their arguments have any basis.
When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but with humility comes wisdom. (11:2)
To answer before listening—
that is folly and shame. (18:13)
If you are the one posting something, do your homework first. Is your information correct? What is the source? Have you checked sources with opposing views to see if perhaps there is another way to look at the situation?
All who are prudent act with knowledge,
but fools expose their folly. (13:16)
The simple believe anything,
but the prudent give thought to their steps. (14:15)
But what if they aren’t making an argument? What if they are simply letting off steam, or worse, attacking the person instead of the position? We would do well to keep these proverbs in mind:
Fools show their annoyance at once,
but the prudent overlook an insult. (12:16)
Whoever is patient has great understanding,
but one who is quick-tempered displays folly. (14:29)
A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger. (15:1)
Be patient. Think before you fire of a nasty comment. Be willing to be insulted. Practice humility.
Finally, the best thing may be to simply distance ourselves from those who continually spout malicious insults. I’ve sadly had to “unfollow” a number of my friends, simply because they were being hurtful. (Note again the difference between rational, civilized discourse and mean-spirited, hate-filled attacks.)
Stay away from a fool,
for you will not find knowledge on their lips. (14:7)
There are plenty of other proverbs I could have quoted. God clearly answered Solomon’s prayer for wisdom. Reading his words is one way to gain some of that wisdom for ourselves.