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  • Dr. Stieglitz

Breakfast with Solomon - Proverbs 11:12

"He who despises his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding keeps silent"


This is the Hebrew word buz which means to hold in contempt, to scorn, to despise to the point of rejection. What is clearly interesting is that God states that we have a choice whether we will allow ourselves to feel this emotional reaction toward someone. Our society generally feels that we do not have control over whether we feel contempt or not. Contempt is a nursed emotion that starts out as a slight irritability and only with continued care and nurture does it become scorn or contempt. I talk with many people who have allowed themselves to feel this emotion for their spouse by constantly focusing on their weaknesses and shortcomings. If you focus on what the other person is not doing or what they do wrong, you will end up with a healthy crop of disgust, scorn, and contempt.

In marriage counseling, I have asked individuals: What would it take to really live with this person and enjoy it? Usually they come up with a list of actions or behaviors that are not difficult but which they refuse to do because they are so mad or bitter or hurt by the other person over wounds of the past. This seems tragic and silly – holding a great future hostage to the mistakes of the past. I am not saying that major wounds or immoral conduct should not be dealt with, but I consistently watch as people nurse their hurts until they live in a cesspool of relational crud and then blame the other person for it.

The advice of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 is worth looking at. Love must overlook a lot if it is going to be effective. If you want your life to be full of love, then you must be patient with others, be kind to others, endure others, believe others, etc. Strong relationships do not allow scorn to grow.

his neighbor

This is the Hebrew word raa which is the word that means friend, companion, neighbor, associate. It often means one in close relationship or close proximity. It is the word that is used in Leviticus 19:8 in the second great commandment: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Many people have often restricted this word to those they live next to as that is its somewhat restrictive definition in English. But God is not saying to love those you live next to, but that we must meet the needs of those who are within relational proximity to us. These are the toughest people to love (meet needs). God wants us to escape the gravity of our selfishness and look out for the needs of those around us.

lacks sense

The word lacks is the Hebrew word haser which means to have a need or be lacking. It represents a poverty of something. In this case, it is a complete poverty or lack of depth in the soul.

The word translated sense in the NASB is the word leb or heart and means mind, soul, understanding, etc. The idea is clear that the one who despises a person they are in constant relationship with has a shallow soul – a fairly complete orientation toward self. A person with a deep soul or heart is one who can overlook small offenses and even large ones (with interaction and apology). It is work to overlook the wounds that others cause and to keep giving to them what they need, but it is through this process that we dig out depth in our soul and thereby can enjoy life to the fullest.

This idea also clearly has the meaning that the person who scorns those closest to them does not have a proper understanding of the way life works. They need to think through what happens if they push forward with the selfishness of scorn and contempt. It will come back to them as a diminished relationship which is unwise. They will then only have more fuel for their contempt and escalate a downward cycle in the relationship. That is why another proverb says to abandon the strife before it breaks out.

You can't improve a marriage by nursing your hurts. You can't improve a family by increasing your contempt for your parents or your children. You can't improve your work environment by increasing your scorn for your boss. All you do is foul the stream that you are standing in. This makes no sense.

All of us are tempted to keep score of how many times a person is thoughtless or hurtful or inept, but this type of scorekeeping does not improve your life. Instead, all loving relationships must develop daily forms of amnesia which allow you to start fresh with a person each day.


This is the typical word for understanding – bina – which means insight, discretion, discernment; especially about the connection between things. This is the person who sees the connection between what will happen if he says all that he is thinking and what is happening now. So many people just do not think about what will happen if they clear their chest of all that they feel. These people just spew their feelings about everyone and everything, and then people are just supposed to forget and forgive what they said. This is just nonsense.

Solomon is saying that the person with real wisdom sees the unbroken line between the future state of the relationship and what they say right now

keeps silent

This is the Hebrew word charash which means to be silent, dumb, speechless. Clearly the idea is that feelings of hatred and dislike are fleeting and changeable. How many times have we congratulated ourselves for not saying something that we felt like saying when we discovered that it would have been completely wrong?

Yes, you will have strong feelings about your boss, about your neighbor, about your spouse, about your pastor; but if you do not broadcast them, then they will pass and you will have given them and you time to change.

Take Solomon's advice and keep your feelings silent except to trusted confidants who can really listen and care for you in the midst of your emotion. Do not take your emotions for/or against this individual as permanent. Be mature and do not be driven by your emotions.

Until tomorrow,

Gil Stieglitz

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