Solomon Says: Shut Up and Listen
3 The one who guards his words guards his life,
but whoever is talkative will come to ruin.
13 The one who gives an answer before he listens —
that is his folly and his shame.
17 The one who heeds instruction is on the way to life,
but the one who rejects rebuke goes astray.
Welcome to Part 2 of Bible Money Wisdom, where we explore some more of King Solomon’s success tips. They are not fun, but anyone of reasonable inherent ability can apply them – if willing. It is all about humility and effort.
This chapter’s lessons derive first from Solomon’s core insight: wisdom is out there. Wisdom is built into the Creation. You are born with very little. Don’t expect to be wise by looking within, whether by the cogitations of Western philosophy or the logic-transcending mind games of the East. Wisdom is obtained through experience and experiment.
Reality is very, very big. To get a grasp of even a tiny corner of it requires many years of diligent – and at times, dangerous – experiment and experience. This is impractical. To become wise requires absorbing wisdom already accumulated by your predecessors. It requires listening to Instruction.
This can be humiliating. It is more fun to already know.
Please Diss Me
11 My child, do not despise discipline from the LORD,
and do not loathe his rebuke.
12 For the LORD disciplines those he loves,
just as a father disciplines the son in whom he delights.
1 The one who loves discipline loves knowledge,
but the one who hates reproof is stupid.
5 A fool rejects his father's discipline,
but whoever heeds reproof shows good sense.
Wisdom begins with accepting the two D’s: discipline and disrespect. This is especially true in childhood, but to some degree extends throughout life. The process can be unpleasant, but the rewards can be huge.
We all begin life from scratch. Evidence against reincarnation is overwhelming. This means we are dependent on the wisdom of others to survive, and to acquire the knowledge and skills to join the Wise later in life.
To receive criticism or correction is to lose face. Back in my public school days I suffered the ongoing distractions of those who continuously interfered with the learning process in order to be cool. Most of these students were moderate to weak in intellectual talent. Even had they tried they would have been behind the brightest, and so they magnified their comparative ignorance by making a point of not trying, in order to save face. The experience led me to believe that we should abolish public education. I have since mellowed slightly on the subject, but still believe that we need to radically change the way we grade students if we are to continue public education. (In the meantime, I homeschool my child.)
The craving for early honor is not limited to the weaker students, of course. The brighter students are simply challenged less in this regard while young. When the brightest go from hometown school to Ivy League universities, they often experience incredible stress. Freshman suicide is a major problem at schools such as MIT. And then, there is social awkwardness which nerds are known for, which is in part a side-effect of refusing to ask/listen for instruction on social matters which cannot be easily learned from books.
Here is the good news: if you accept the dishonor of criticism and correction, then you eventually gain the honor which comes from wisdom.
18 The one who neglects discipline ends up in poverty and shame,
but the one who accepts reproof is honored.
Learn or Else
15 Folly is bound up in the heart of a child,
but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.
30 Beatings and wounds cleanse away evil,
and floggings cleanse the innermost being.
Children lack wisdom. They often lack even the wisdom to know how much they lack. Solomon’s solution: beat some sense into the brats.
I mean, literally: Ouch!
Some conservative Christians take Solomon’s advice with too much enthusiasm, going so far as to spank the spirit out of their children. Many liberals of gentle dispositions disapprove of the practice, and I mostly sympathize with their position. I am a believer is minimizing total punishment in society myself.
For those conservative Christians in the audience who frequently resort to the rod, allow me to remind you that David and Solomon where horrible parents! Just look at the results of their child-rearing practices. David’s eldest son started a civil war. Solomon killed many of his brothers. Solomon’s son caused the kingdom to break apart due to his arrogance and greed for tax revenues.
By their fruits I judge them to be poor parents. Those who favor civil war and fratricide may have other opinions.
I would also direct you to an admonition from St. Paul:
4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but raise them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.
That said, I abhor those liberals who would be too quick to invoke the might of the state to break up families because of a few spankings. Family breakup is often the greater punishment.
Finally, let me relate to you a bit of personal experience.
The middle school I attended as a child was run by people who celebrated corporal punishment. Every teacher was issued a rather hefty regulation paddle, which had the words, “Never spank a child in the face. Nature provides a better place.” The assistant principal at that school was a former Marine drill sergeant. He had a much larger arsenal of paddles. Incoming fourth graders were marched into the cafeteria for him to read the official Onslow County School Rules – drill sergeant style. The effect was terrifying.
It was a fun school. The other schools I attended were far less pleasant.
Recess was at least twice per day. Structured physical education was in addition to recess, not a substitute. In many classes, those who finished their assignments were free to play cards or board games while others caught up. In some classes, there was a great deal of joking between teachers and students – and between teachers and other teachers. Yet somehow we managed to learn stuff – despite classrooms with over 30 children. Bullying was very limited. With a serious threat in place to keep the students from crossing the line, the line could be a very loose circle. (Thinking back, it was mostly threat. The use of theater reduced the need for actual corporal punishment.)
Today, I read stories of schools overrun by bullies, or worse. I read of remedies ranging from idiotic zero tolerance policies to ultra-regimented KIPP style academies. I read of police permanently stationed in schools, and children sent through the court system for misbehavior. Restrained, but theatrical, use of corporal punishment by educators strikes me as far less abusive.
Solomon was not entirely wrong. And perhaps he had more sympathy for the bullies who graduate to be criminals as well, more sympathy than today’s “well-meaning” liberals:
24 The one who spares his rod hates his child,
but the one who loves his child is diligent in disciplining him.
13 Do not withhold discipline from a child;
even if you strike him with the rod, he will not die.
14 If you strike him with the rod,
you will deliver him from death.
What is the system of minimal punishment? I know not, but it is safe to say that we don’t have it today. To suffer some spankings is much to be preferred over even a short stay in this country’s hellish prison system. Note our exploding prison population, and compare it to the “bad old days” when corporal punishment was the rule. Likewise, sending children to schools where bullies administer more corporal punishment than teachers is hardly an act of mercy.
There likely is a good system of child rearing that is gentler than what we had in the “bad old days,” and I salute those who seek it. I myself have quite a few ideas on reducing the need for punishment as part of school.
But a bit of humility is in order. Solomon had a point.
Even Kings Need Counsellors
14 When there is no guidance a nation falls,
but there is success in the abundance of counselors.
15 The way of a fool is right in his own opinion,
but the one who listens to advice is wise.
22 Plans fail when there is no counsel,
but with abundant advisers they are established.
18 Plans are established by counsel,
so make war with guidance.
So, you have listened to your parents and other teachers. You have acquired wisdom and achieved a significant level of success. Are you done taking instruction?
Sorry. Solomon says that even the successful should listen to counsellors. As I said before, reality is very, very big. Multiple specializations and viewpoints are required for maximum success.
More Reasons to Shut Up
27 The truly wise person restrains his words,
and the one who stays calm is discerning.
28 Even a fool who remains silent is considered wise,
and the one who holds his tongue is deemed discerning.
If you vent forth your opinion on all topics, you are pretty much guaranteed to be very wrong on many things. You will appear wiser to hold forth only on those topics on which you have expertise. This could be useful.
7 Whoever corrects a mocker is asking for insult;
whoever reproves a wicked person receives abuse.
8 Do not reprove a mocker or he will hate you;
reprove a wise person and he will love you.
9 Give instruction to a wise person, and he will become wiser still;
teach a righteous person and he will add to his learning.
Sometimes you are better off being quiet even when you are right. The Internet is full of trolls who will waste your time and emotional energy if you let them.
16 A fool's annoyance is known at once,
but the prudent overlooks an insult.
And try to keep your cool when beset by trolls. I know it is not easy – I have failed in this regard quite a few times – but losing your cool is a good way to embarrass yourself.
And for goodness sake don’t be a troll:
14 Starting a quarrel is like letting out water;
stop it before strife breaks out!
19 The one who loves a quarrel loves transgression;
whoever builds his gate high seeks destruction.
6 The lips of a fool enter into strife,
and his mouth invites a flogging.
3 It is an honor for a person to cease from strife,
but every fool quarrels.
Don’t be a griefer either:
14 Do not enter the path of the wicked
or walk in the way of those who are evil.
15 Avoid it, do not go on it;
turn away from it, and go on.
16 For they cannot sleep unless they cause harm;
they are robbed of sleep until they make someone stumble.
17 For they eat bread gained from wickedness
and drink wine obtained from violence.
18 But the path of the righteous is like the bright morning light,
growing brighter and brighter until full day.
19 The way of the wicked is like gloomy darkness;
they do not know what causes them to stumble.
23 Carrying out a wicked scheme is enjoyable to a fool,
and so is wisdom for the one who has discernment.
19 A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul,
but fools abhor turning away from evil.
Yes, in our publicity-crazed world, sometimes having enemies can be a useful form of self-promotion. But in general, enemies are an expense. Unless you value lulz over wealth, safety, and other happy things, it pays to avoid making enemies as much as possible. This is rational self-interest.
There may be afterlife rewards as well.