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By Jeff Smith
Special to The PREVIEW
Being wise about life means I have to have a few easy-to-recall answers for a vast array of problems. When it comes to getting along with people, and getting along in life, my go-to place for good ideas is the wisdom of Solomon in the Bible. I am in chapter 10 of the Book of Proverbs. Each proverb is a small puzzle. Once I figure it out, I can spider-web it to other proverbs so that the subject can be seen from a second or third angle. The subject this morning with my coffee is hidden things. A good person lives a life that is open and honest, but there are good reasons to keep a secret or two.
Proverbs 10:12 “Hatred stirreth up strifes, but love covers all sins.”
“Hating people is like burning down your own house to get rid of a rat.” — H.E. Fosdick.
A counselor once told us that what couples argue about is seldom what they argue about. What he meant was, it’s most often not the checkbook or the socks on the floor, but more about power and how we value each other. So we have to look for the heat that stirs the pot and not just see the bubbles. Not all strife comes from hatred, but when strife occurs, a smart person knows they may need to look deep.
Often, these are more style problems than substance, but at times these can be wrongs that need to be made right. Sin we confront. Style we work around. One way to “cover” wrong is to forgive (Psalms 32:1). We can also “cover” a wrong in the sense of being modest (Proverbs 11:13, Isaiah 58:7) and not expose a problem beyond the circle of those who are part of the problem or part of the answer.
Proverbs 11:12 “He who has a poor opinion (despises, scorns-NAS) of his neighbor has no sense, but a wise man keeps quiet.”
Quarrels happen between neighbors, but the one who starts the fight is most often the fool. Wise people make every effort to get along with those close enough to do them great harm. Often, but not always, this means keeping silent about minor irritants and insults.
Proverbs 11:13 “A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.”
We like to see the telling of a secret as a slip up. This proverb warns us that we tend to reveal secrets because we are gossips. This is like other verses that say we lie because we are liars, and we steal because we are thieves. Any of these single outward acts may be a habit and should warn us to check for deeper, inner flaws. If we can keep a secret though, it shows we are worthy of trust. People often gossip because they want to make themselves look good at someone else’s expense. If we keep a secret, the secret stays hidden, while our goodness does not.
Secrets can be kept, shared, searched out or ignored, but should not be betrayed. A wise person knows something about all those choices.