As I have done during January the last several years, I am again reading the book of Proverbs this year. There are 31 days in January and 31 chapters in the book of Proverbs. I read a chapter a day that corresponds with the day of the month.
On Monday I read chapter 18 and verse 2 jumped out at me: “Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions” (NIV). The truth of the proverb has been especially obvious recently in many contexts such as family, friends, debates, Facebook comment threads, email exchanges, Bible studies, small groups, politicians, and many others.
Some readers of this post, as well as the author, have probably verified Solomon’s observation in some of our conversations and discussions. Hopefully, however, we have not been as extreme as Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase in The Message, “Fools care nothing for thoughtful discourse; all they do is run off at the mouth.”
Which is more important – talking or listening? My answer: both or neither. The proverb seems to suggest that fools are not interested in listening to others, but only in talking.
The person who wants to talk all the time without listening to others comes across as an arrogant “know-it-all.” I’m no psychologist for sure, but the fool described in Proverbs 18:2 may be insecure and/or trying to show off.
To do all the talking without listening to someone not only closes the door to growing in understanding, it is also disrespectful to them. To listen to someone certainly does not mean you agree with them, only that you hear them.
We should note that the NIV translation of Proverbs 18:2 tells us “fools . . . delight in airing their own opinions.” There is a difference between facts and opinions and sometimes we confuse the two. In our discussions with others we need to be honest about which is which. Opinion is exactly that – opinion, not fact.
Unfortunately some value their opinion or preference more than what is true. It isn’t always easy to know the difference. When it comes to discussions and exchanges about our opinions the challenge is to be both calm and respectful.
Sometime in the past I heard someone suggest that to be more productive in our discussions about disagreements we need to have more light and less heat. I think the instruction of James 1:19 is also relevant, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
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