Getting to know some people is never easy, especially if they respond as closed books to our overtures at niceties or friendship. Not like friends and most family we don’t get many chances to make an impression on these people. But even with such limited information we can learn to discern everyone’s motives such that this information gives us the best chance to love them all.
Proverbs 27:17-22 refers to the situations many of us wonder about; like, ‘What is he or she really thinking about when they do things like that?’ or ‘What do they see in me to make them say such things?’
If we’re relating in collegial, workplace or family situations presumably we’re trying to get the best out of each other, though at times people’s responses, and our responses to them, can appear confusing, at least initially.
We note here that those who truly know us may identify selfishness or character flaws in us even before we see them. “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses” –Proverbs 27:5-6 (TNIV). They seem to pinpoint our flawed nature (v. 20) but in ways that are palatable for us. And they sharpen us if we allow them (v. 17). When we give the ‘trusted friend’s’ feedback the credence it deserves we stand to reap blessing (v. 18).
Verse 21 connects beautifully with verse 2, both alluding to the way we’re to take compliments. This is a fine character test. How much or how little praise we receive for the good we do is secondary; what’s primary is how we respond. Some of us respond almost in shame... ‘It’s embarrassing to be congratulated or thanked for that!’ might be the response.
Others, conversely, will make the most of the opportunity to embellish the situation, after all the lamp must radiate from the hill, mustn’t it? (This takes too far Jesus’ intent in Matthew 5:14-16, i.e. based from self-glory motives, not the glory of God.)
We are known intrinsically by the way we deal with people. People intuitively know our hearts often better than we know ourselves. Think how a broad sample of people who know us might respond to the questions, ‘What sort of friend is (your name)?’ or ‘Are they trustworthy, sincere, compassionate?’
One of my all time favourite proverbs is verse 19. It’s a good place to finish. It’s actually quite ambiguous and the original meaning’s probably lost in a few popular ones, none of which are of their own, wrong. Jesus, again, touched on this in Matthew 12.
People are who they are out of the overflow of what’s in their hearts. Nurture the right things long enough and only good seems to come out the majority of the time; the opposite is certainly true.
Proverbs 27, indeed, gets to the heart of things; the most important issue of life.
Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.