The wisdom tradition of ancient Israel began with their King Solomon. He was known as the wisest man in the ancient world. He wrote thousands of proverbs and poems, and collected knowledge about plants and animals.
He indeed was the fountainhead of Israel’s wisdom literature, and much of his work is captured in the Book of Proverbs in the Bible.
I recently concluded yet another study of the book; while studying, I came across a number of wise sayings that stood out to me and I thought to share them with you, my readers.
They range from little everyday ordinary observations, to mind-blowing ideas and perspectives that could change your life forever.
I’ve included, along with the quotes, my own interpretations just to give you an idea of how my perspectives on different areas of life have been shaped, changed or enhanced by these words. And I’m hoping they do the same for you too.
So, here are 10 Wise Sayings from the Book of Proverbs. Enjoy… and selah!
#1“A fool gives vent to all his feelings, but the wise, thinking afterwards, stills them.”
We all know those who like to say things like “Me, I just say my own how it is doing me!”
This is a warning against doing foolish things like that. Your emotions are supposed to be indicators and not dictators. They are supposed to tell you why you feel the way you do, not dictate how you react to situations.
So next time you feel like just venting, pause, think, and calmly respond instead of react. That’s what a wise person would do.
#2“There are those with nothing who pretend they are rich, also those with great wealth who pretend they are poor.
The rich man may have to ransom his life, but a poor man gets no threats.”
Simply put, the richer people think you are, the more problems you are susceptible to. There are people who have no money but give off the impression that they have a lot. They want to fake it until they make it. But the problem there is that people will make more demands on you. And because you can’t afford to meet those demands, you will hesitate and (who knows?) they may then take it to the extreme and put you in a situation where you would one day have to pay a ransom.
It’s always better to be discreet either way.
#3“He who goes with the wise will become wise, but he who befriends the fools will be destroyed.”
This is the power of association. Like they say, you are the average of the five people you hang around. Now note that while this proverb says that if you hang out with wise people you will become wise, it does not say that if you hang out with fools you will become foolish. Instead, it says that you will be destroyed.
You may be street smart (not wise) and end up hanging with the wrong crowd. The destruction that will come upon that crowd will come upon you too, and people around you will wonder: But I thought he was smarter than that?
#4“Where there are no oxen, the stalls are clean; but much is produced by the strength of an ox.”
You may decide not to have any friends or kids because of the baggage that comes with dealing with people and raising children. True, you would have no such baggage to deal with, but you won’t enjoy the benefits that come with having friends and children either. And they far outweigh the baggage.
Or, you may be like me and decide not to own a vehicle because of all the responsibilities and troubles of driving, changing tires, going to the mechanic, buying petrol, maintenance, etc. You won’t have any of those troubles. You’ll have a very clean garage like the clean stalls without an ox. But you won’t be able to achieve as much as if you owned a vehicle, because you’d be very limited in your movement and your work and social lives would suffer.
#5“He who controls his temper is better than a war hero, he who rules his spirit better than he who captures a city.”
You are your own worst enemy. So if you are able to conquer yourself first, by controlling your temper, you are better than a war hero who conquers a city. And you will eventually receive the honor a hero deserves like it says further down in the proverbs, “Avoiding quarrels brings a person honor; for any fool can explode in anger.”
#6“He who conceals an offence promotes love, but he who harps on it can separate even close friends.”
If you are easily offended, you won’t have a lot of friends and you may eventually lose the few that you have. But if you learn not to take offense, to overlook some things, not to bring them up again and again; the love and bond between you and your friends will grow even stronger.
So, be slow to anger and stop ‘saying your own how it is doing you’. No one wants to feel guilty all the time, around you.
#7“Even a fool, if he stays silent, is thought wise; he who keeps his mouth shut can pass for smart.”
Self-explanatory! When next you’re in that meeting at the office and you have no clue what they’re talking about, do yourself a favour by not ‘contributing’ to the discussion, exposing your ignorance.
#8“A fool takes no pleasure in trying to understand; he only wants to express his own opinion.”
Whenever you are listening to someone not to understand them but to respond to them, you’re being foolish. So, catch yourself then and open your ears instead of your mouth.
Like Stephen Covey says in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
It’s no surprise that further down the proverbs, it says: “To answer someone before hearing him out is both stupid and embarrassing.”
#9“Before being ruined, a person’s heart is proud; before being honored, a person must be humble.”
We all know that pride comes before a fall. But do we know that humility comes before honor? In order to be great at something, you must first be a servant. Serve your gifts, talents and skills to the world and you will be honored. Be careful not to let it get to your head though, because that’s pride. And we know what comes after pride, don’t we? Talk about the circle of life!
#10“The first to state his case seems right, till the other one comes and cross-examines.”
This is very simple and very obvious, yet, many times, we fall into the trap of not hearing from both sides in a dispute before passing judgment. Hear both sides first.
They’ve got it right in the courts of law; they even have two people examine one witness. First, the lawyer who is on the witnesses’ side examines him – by asking a bunch of (leading) questions and then the opposing lawyer cross-examines by asking questions that might even expose the first lawyer’s bias .
You know, we could take this as a lesson in parenting too. When a child does wrong and one parent is asking them what they did but, because of the ‘love’ they have for the child, tend to believe whatever they say, have the second parent, who is not as biased, cross-examine the child in order to get to the truth and mete out appropriate judgment.
I hope you enjoyed reading these wise sayings and gained a lot from them. Next week, we’ll look at 10 More Wise Sayings, as I had more to share with you today but had to consider the length of this article.
Meanwhile, do you have any wise sayings of your own that have kept you going over the years? It doesn’t have to be biblical. It could be something your grandma, dad, boss, uncle, aunt, old friend used to say that you’ve just held on to all these years, and has kept you safely on the straight and narrow.
Please share them with us and I might even feature your wise saying in one of my next articles!
I’ll see you next week. Until then, stay wise out there!