Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult. – Proverbs 12-16 NIV
What does that mean?
In this translation, it is all about keeping your head about you when things become difficult. What you do in such moments helps people determine what kind of person you are.
Fools, as it says, will demonstrate their annoyance immediately when things don’t go their way. From temper tantrums to outbursts, fools show themselves quickly when things go poorly, or when insulted.
On the other hand, the quote says a prudent person will overlook an insult and keep their head. The prudent person doesn’t lash out at an insult, whether intended or accidental. They keep their head and don’t scream at the rain for happening all over their parade.
While we will all have a moment when we just can’t take it, acting more as the prudent person more often than the fool will go a long way towards helping us become a person of character, rather than becoming a character.
Why is resisting the annoyance important?
What would life be like if everyone had a temper tantrum each time they were called a name, or that they didn’t get their way? Now that would be quite an annoyance to the rest of us, wouldn’t it? But seriously, who wants to be around grown-ups acting like little children? Not me, and I would imagine you don’t either.
One can explain it away, and say they didn’t mean it, or that that’s the best they can do from the place of hurt where they are currently living. You can simply ignore them, or take the sting, and keep on believing in yourself. But you can resist the annoyance, and become a better person for it. You can build character.
Yes, you can issue a stinging rebuke, you can fight fire with fire, but then are you being prudent, or are you lowering yourself to fight a fool on their own territory? And what does that do to your character? I would hope you aspire to become better, and turning against them isn’t usually the best way. The satisfaction is short term at best.
And what of the things completely outside anyone’s control? The idea of planning a parade, or participating in one, and yelling at the clouds or the rain for ruining the day? Really? What does that say about the person who has become upset at the weather? What about their character and even their emotional stability? Nothing good, I imagine.
Where can I apply this in my life?
So the simple way to fix the immaturity problem is to start with the only person over whom you have control; yourself. An annoyance is an interesting word. It’s not the least on the continuum, nor is it the greatest. That means we can choose to be less than annoyed, if we desire. We can be slightly upset or merely miffed.
If we were to escalate instead of diminish, we could be righteously indignant or even angry. But where does that get us? Yes, we may put on an air of bravado, we may seem more macho or masculine or possessing a solid defense, but what does it help? Does it make the rain go away? Does it take the sting out of the comment?
Yes, it may feel good at the moment, but how long does that last? And what do you do when the regret sinks in? How do you make right something that you broke, be it trust or a relationship? How many of us have let the fool respond, rather than the prudent person? I know I have, and on occasion, still do.
We can work on being less offended, less annoyed, less angry. It may sound like we are making excuses for them, but if we treat them well, and they meant well, they will be ashamed later. Then you can be the prudent person to their fool and forgive them. You might even be able to help them become more prudent.
However, if you are the fool, you can only hope that they are sufficiently prudent to be able to handle the situation and that they will forgive you later. Sometimes that happens. They may not be pleased with you, but you can work on that, or even ask them for their help in becoming a more prudent person.
Even if the other person is deliberately trying to annoy you, what then? Does that give you the excuse to be a fool as well? Think about the last few times you tried to do that. How well did it turn out? How well do two fools interact, and what kind of consequences tend to arise from such an encounter?
Even if you never did, I’m sure you’ve seen something like that happen. From my experiences, it is rarely a pretty sight. Whether it’s furniture, bones, or feelings, something always gets broken in such a situation. Yes, it’s a staple in the movies, but do you want to live like that, or is that something you want to avoid?
Our reactions can be involuntary, or we can choose how we react. If we choose to let it go, to overlook the insult, to not become annoyed at the rain clouds, then we build our character and become a better person. Otherwise, we become a fool. And, at least for me, that’s a hard way to live.