Proverbs 27 is one of those subsets of Solomon’s proverbs that contains a collection of observations, any of which can stand alone as its own pearl of wisdom.
There is, however, a rough, overriding theme in these verses—that of interpersonal relationships, whether with friends, adversaries, family members, employees or employers, or even the way we relate to strangers.
Here is a breakdown of Solomon’s rules for successful relations from the first six verses of this great chapter of the Proverbs:
1. Nobody likes a braggart. Proverbs 27:1,2 — When I read these verses yesterday, I heard the following conversation in my head:“How can you tell when it is a fool boasting?” “I don’t know. How?” “The fool is boasting!”
2. Anger management is essential to healthy relationships. Proverbs 27:3 — If you are the kind people have to walk on egg shells around in order to keep you from erupting, you are the wrong kind. Temper tantrums are counterproductive and foolish. They cloud judgment, damage psyches, and drive wedges between people. If the only way you can relate to people is through intimidation, do not be surprised when relationships disintegrate and the people you want to be around do not share the sentiment.
3. Jealousy is even more destructive than temper tantrums. Proverbs 27:4 — Jealousy is its own peculiar kind of ugly. It is the offspring of Insecurity and the parent of the ugly twins named Disharmony and Discontent. Jealousy foolishly excuses its owner while often falsely accusing its target. Jealousy stunts growth and stimulates resentment.
4. There is no reason to keep your love a secret. Proverbs 27:5 — One can conclude that love that is never expressed is not love at all. Of course, love is expressed as well in the things you do as in the things you say.
5. Better learn who your friends are—and they are not always the ones you think they are. Proverbs 27:6 — Oh, the kiss of an enemy! What confusion and heartbreak it brings. There is always poison in the lips of the deceitful and conniving.
This little sermonette began as a personal study, which began as an epiphany when I overheard a person whose heart has been rather severely trampled tell a friend, “I am just trying to learn who I can trust not to hurt me.”
I don’t know why, but my immediate thought was this: Learning who truly loves you does not consist in finding the person you can trust not to hurt you; it consists in finding the one you can trust to hurt you.
Let me illustrate.
My father hurt me quite a few times when I was growing up. I felt the sting of his belt on my backside and I also felt the sting of his disappointment when I had failed to meet his expectations. I never, however, knew a single moment when I doubted his love. The way he hurt me always let me know it was corrective, not punitive. He was not taking out frustrations or getting even with me. He was trying to mold me into a better man.
My wife has said things to me over the years that have stung, things that have wounded my pride. But she has never said a “hateful” or hate-filled word to me. She has simply been obliged a few times over the years to hold up a proverbial mirror so I could see for myself how my attitude or actions looked from a different perspective than my own.
I would rather have the rebuke of a lover than the flattery of a liar. Better a friend should wound me so that I may find healing than an enemy kill me with a kiss.
A friend’s wounds are never malicious and an enemy’s kiss is never healthy.
Relationships are tricky things. Each one takes on a life of its own, with unique dynamics. I do not know another couple with the exact same kind of relationship Donya and I have. That doesn’t make our relationship better or worse than any other. It just makes it ours.
That doesn’t mean, however, that no general rules exist by which to govern, evaluate and protect any relationship. They do exist and we just looked at a few of them together, as we examined some of the wisdom of Solomon.
One could do worse, you know, than to heed the wisdom of the man that asked God specifically for wisdom…and got it.