By NEMS Daily Journal
Abraham Lincoln, for all his wisdom, wasn’t the first person to mention the value of silence in appearing wise.
That might have been Solomon, king of Israel and the author of the Book of Proverbs.
“Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent” (Proverbs 17:28).
The world back then apparently was well equipped with fools, for in 31 short chapters the book mentions them more than 40 times.
One of the recurring themes is the fool’s propensity to talk when he shouldn’t.
• “The wise of heart will receive commandments, but a babbling fool will come to ruin” (10:8).
• “The wise lay up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool brings ruin near” (10:14).
• “By the mouth of a fool comes a rod for his back, but the lips of the wise will preserve them” (14:3).
The fool is a constant source of frustration to those around him:
• “Whoever troubles his own household will inherit the wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise of heart” (11:29)
• “A fool despises his father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent” (15:5).
The fool is known for always thinking he’s right:
• “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice” (12:15).
• “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion” (18:2).
• “Crush a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his folly will not depart from him” (27:22).
• “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (1:7).
• “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly” (26:11).
• “In everything the prudent acts with knowledge, but a fool flaunts his folly” (13:16).
And, as hinted in several quotes already, fools seem to love conflict:
• “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back” (29:11).
• “The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult” (12:16)
• “It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling” (20:3).
• “The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool” (10:18).
• “Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge” (14:7).
It may seem strange for a small book from a long time ago, in a country far, far away, to offer wisdom for the 21st Century, but even in this age when instant communications, near-anonymity and a disconnected connectedness facilitate debates between complete strangers, Proverbs has much to offer.
Verse 29:9 might be well-placed as a sticky note on many a Web-connected screen:
“If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet.”