"Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you, reprove a wise man and he will love you"
We are always trying to influence people to see things our way. This proverb is a lesson in who you can do that to, who you can't, and who will listen. It also will allow you to understand the kinds of people that you are dealing with.
The word reprove is the word tokeha in the Hebrew which means to correct, to rebuke, to bring about a new perception to the listener. This proverb is saying that the scoffer will not receive any perception except their own.
The scorner is the person who puts themselves in the superior position of critic of everything. They accept nothing or are rarely pro anything but instead see themselves as the analyzer of everything. This kind of person does not want to be the subject of someone else's critique, no matter how deserved. Their pride will not allow them to receive it. This proverb says that they will hate you for even suggesting that they need correcting.
The word hate is the word sani which means hated or held in aversion.
This lesson of the proverb tells us that the scoffer will not receive a direct correction without an emotional reaction against the person who gives it. So, therefore, do not give them direct evidence that they are wrong. Do not confront them with their error directly.
The scoffer must be taught or developed in a different way than directly. It is a shame because it means that they will not make as much progress as if they could receive correction directly. This means that you have to ask the scoffer to explain to you how the previous situation could have been handled differently. It means that the scoffer must be presented with new evidence and allowed to change their mind themselves. They must make the application, not have it done to them. Their pride is just too great to receive direct correction without a severe emotional reaction.
The process of Nathan and Joab confronting David was a way to get around the emotional reaction of being hated in case David had become too proud to hear correction. They gave him scenarios that he could emotionally connect with and that would largely not allow him to hate them for bringing this corrective. It was not a direct confrontation in the beginning.
Another way that the scoffer can be approached with correction is through the other person's perception. This is their perception of the events. Since they are in this situation, how could you change your behavior to adjust for their perception? In this way the scoffer never has to believe that they were wrong, just that they need to make allowance for other people's faulty perceptions.
The point of this proverb is that the scoffer has a severe emotional reaction to direct correction. This identifies the scoffer and also should cause you to change your way of bringing about change in the scoffer's life. They need correction just like everybody, but they cannot handle it directly. It is too much of an affront to their pride.
By the way, one of the important tasks of parenting is to make sure that our children can receive direct correction and to talk with them about allowing others to point out error and inappropriate action without overwhelming negative actions. A truly wise person is willing to listen through a direct confrontation about things that they did wrong. They examine the information for truth, not the giver for reaction. If your children cannot receive correction from another, then they are not ready for the world at large.
reprove a wise man and he will love you
Notice the totally different reaction of the wise person. The wise person loves the person who has the courage to directly correct them. After all, it is a timesaver and gains them the ability to make even better decisions next time. The wise person is excited when someone has the courage to directly correct them. They want it and see it as a sign of love.
One of the things that wise people do is that they do not worry about how it was said or when it was said as to whether it is received. The only thing that matters is the truth of the statements and the fact that the wise person can grow and become better.
Is this your attitude? Or do people have to tip-toe around some big flaw in your life, not wanting to get you upset?
Everyone in Western civilization considers themselves competent to criticize everything in their world, so we must be very careful about becoming scoffers and not receiving correction.
What is also amazing is that these are still the reactions of people who have embraced the character traits of scoffing or wisdom. God's Word nails the truth about us even when it was recorded over 3,000 years ago.