23 February 2006

proverbs 15:28

proverbs 15:28

Another proverb, another day.

For Thursday, February 23, 2006
Proverbs 15:28

The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer,
but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.

I opened the email with some trepidation, knowing what it likely contained: more bad news from a friend who had already been subjected to a series of unjust accusations, but now faced more of the same. And I was being asked to help frame his response.

Anger, as Aristotle notes in his Rhetoric, often involves "a desire accompanied by pain, for conspicuous revenge for a conspicuous slight at the hands of men who have no call to slight oneself or one's friends" (II.2 1377b31). That's a stomp your feet, spit obscenities, smack the computer monitor sort of anger. The temptation, of course, is to vengeance, to return evil for evil, to lash back with a stream of accusations and invective as harsh and unjust as that which has hurt you or your loved one.

That, however, is not the path outlined in today's proverb.

We may not face hostile accusers. Some disputes may involve no ill will, but only inability to agree. Even so, the temptation is too often towards the harsh answer or clever retort, the witty barb or unfair blow.

Our Lord himself, who knew no sin, remained virtually silent before those who sought his life, speaking few and choice words. How much more must we who are sinful and weak take care to frame our responses to those around us with whom we may simply differ. Let us then watch and weigh our words in order that even our enemies can make no accusation against the truth we speak in charity.