"He who neglects discipline despises himself, but he who listens to reproof acquires understanding"
This is the Hebrew word para which means to let go, let alone, neglect.
This is the standard Hebrew word musar for discipline, chastening, correction, punishment. This word has the idea of any type of correction – often that which comes against one's will or with some level of emotional, mental, spiritual sting involved.
No one likes this kind of correction. It is always ego-damaging. But we must realize that we desperately need correction in whatever form it comes when we are wrong or when there is a better way to do something.
This is the Hebrew word maas which means reject, cast away, despise, abhor. The idea is clearly that the correction that was clearly needed was rejected and dismissed.
I have watched as people have clung to their old way of doing things even when there is clearly a better way.
Is there some part of your life right now where people are trying to bring correction or improvement and you don't want to hear it? Be very careful. Solomon is absolutely correct that the person who pushes away at reproof despises himself. You destroy your potential. Sit down right now and pay attention to the correction that you were given. Does it have any merit? What parts really make more sense than the way you are doing it now?
This is another case where the translators thought that they could help us grasp the meaning of the verse by using a word that in their translation is not consistent with the definition of the word in other instances of this word. The Hebrew word translated in this proverb – understanding – is leb which is the Hebrew word for heart, soul, inner man. Solomon is clearly telling us that when you listen to reproof, you gain depth and substance to your soul.
Solomon's view of our inner man is that it can grow and develop. In fact, the idea is that the soul must grow. Our soul is what will be presented to God after we die. Our soul is the software of our physical bodies. All during our life we are adding programs and instructions to the basic operating software with which we came equipped. When we listen to correction, we make additions to our internal programming. When we don't listen to correction, we miss opportunities to add significant wisdom that we will need for future parts of life. God can see the whole of our life and knows that if we are going to succeed at something in the future, we will need a piece of wisdom in the present.
Our soul is that invisible part of our being that stores the essence of who we are. It is just like the software of a computer. We come equipped with basic software for running our physical body; but we must learn through our parents, teachers, and others how to get along in this world. We, in a sense, are adding programming to our soul – our operating system. This operating system is able to grow and develop as well as to one day be transferred to another body.
When we die we will present to God our soul (Hebrews 9:27; Psalm 90; 2 Corinthians 5:10) and show Him the whole of our internal operating instructions. In other words: Lord, here is all the wisdom I picked up in my 90 years of life. The more we paid attention to the correction that He sent our way, the better our life went but also the more wisdom we had hidden in our soul.
Solomon is trying to teach us through the proverbs how to have a richer soul.