We are experiencing interesting times these days. Everyone seems to have an opinion. Many have facts that back-up their point of view. Experts in one camp refute experts in another camp. Evidence can be found to support nearly any viewpoint. This information and its communication can leave us angry, upset, confused or even heartbroken by what we observe on the news, in social media or with a friend or loved one. With all of this conflicting information, what is a person to do?
Relax. Stay calm and stay kind.
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is Proverbs 26:4-5.
Don’t answer the foolish arguments of fools, or you will become as foolish as they are.
Be sure to answer the foolish arguments of fools, or they will become wise in their own estimation.
This paradox and riddle plagued me for many years. It was tremendously difficult discerning its meaning and seemingly contradictory instruction. Nevertheless, it drew and fixated my attention. There was great wisdom hidden in these passages if only it could be drawn out through the blessings of grace and understanding.
Over the years, the following insight has been revealed to me and the practice of reversing the phrases has become most helpful.
Truth is universal. Everyone knows and understands Truth regardless of their point of view on any specific topic or issue. Truth is found within. When confronted with Truth, we know it, immediately (whether or not we want to admit it).
With Truth in mind, we can interpret these passages and utilize the wisdom found therein.
Be sure to answer the foolish arguments of fools, or they will become wise in their own estimation. (Proverbs 26:5)
When confronted with a foolish argument, be sure to offer the truth and address foolishness immediately and succinctly. This applies if and only if the truth is known and understood. If the truth is unknown or not fully understood – say nothing! (Easier said than done…)
Don’t answer the foolish arguments of fools, or you will become as foolish as they are. (Proverbs 26:4)
Once the truth has been spoken, stop. Be firm in your resolve and add no more. There is no need to continue as continuing may draw you into another’s foolishness as described in the proverb. At this point, remain silent. (Again, easier said than done…)Kindness is tremendously helpful at this point and ties everything together.
Kindness offers grace to all involved; offer kindness towards the other party as well as kindness towards yourself.
It’s also extremely important to note that this interpretation works extremely well whether you are the fool or the wise person. From my own experiences, I have been both the fool and the wise person depending upon the subject or circumstance. In addition, I have succeeded in being the fool when I truly felt that I was the wise person, only to learn the truth through reflection. These instances have proven most humbling and have been some of my most formidable instructors.
Regardless of your situation or circumstance or whether you believe you are right or wrong, being kind resolves most conflicts or at least tempers them significantly.
Patience matters. Kindness matters. Listening matters. And that could make all the difference.
Related Post: Kindness is the Key
How do you handle conflicting opinions?
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