A Hot Head

Old Testament: 1 Samuel 21 & 22

* Poetry: Proverbs 12

New Testament: Acts 6

Proverbs chapter 12 has some very interesting proverbs that can walk us deeper into understanding the wisdom and knowledge that begins with the fear of Yahweh (cf. 1:7; 9:10). One of those proverbs is 12:16, which says, “The anger of a fool is known at once, but a prudent person conceals dishonor.”

Picking up on the conjunction “but” that connects the two lines together, this suggests that the parallelism in this proverb is likely antithetic, meaning the two lines are expressing opposing ideas. In the first line, the main idea is that the “anger of a fool” is readily apparent (i.e., “known at once”). The question we always need to ask ourselves when reading wisdom literature, especially Proverbs, is, “How is this proverb true?” In other words, “What circumstance could this proverb be accurately describing?”

Have you ever known someone who had a short temper? And what was the characteristic behavior of this individual that earned them this reputation? Probably they got angry easily, right? The first line is identifying that a fool is someone who has no control over their temper and quickly erupts at the smallest provocation. They are a “hot head” just waiting to blow. Given the wrong remark or facial expression from others, their attitude can turn sour in an instant and their anger flares up like a barrel fire.

On the contrary to this foolish behavior, the “prudent person,” who exercises self-control and discipline and has a “cool head” about them, “conceals dishonor.” Thus, unlike the fool that vents their anger immediately, unable to rule their emotions but makes an open show of their contempt, the “prudent person” covers over, overlooks, or does not give attention to the dishonorable actions of others. They do not respond in a like manner with unrestrained, emotionally charged reactions.

Thus, the point of the proverb is that a wise person recognizes the best way to handle criticisms or insults and does not react impulsively or irrationally by stooping to meet the fool at their level.

Have you ever just wanted to let someone have a “piece of your mind”? I sure have, and I bet you have too. But the self-restraint required to not vent one’s frustration or anger is part of living with wisdom. Did you know that learning how to rule over your emotions was exercising godly wisdom? It may not “feel” as good in the moment as it would if you yelled at the other person, but wisdom is not about what “feels” good—it is about what is good and right to do that glorifies Yahweh and aligns with his intention for how life is best lived. Therefore, the wise person must deny the temptation to give in to destructive emotions, like uncontrolled anger, that would inflict harm on others. Wisdom teaches how to build strong, healthy relationships and ways of interacting that promote peace and godliness. And that entails being able to keep one’s emotions in check.

-Jerry Wierwille

Reflection Questions:

  1. Give some examples of how temper can interfere with living a life that glorifies Yahweh. Any come to mind when you were the one with the hot head? How could it have played out differently with more self-control?
  2. How can you work on more self-control and discipline? Ask Yahweh, too.
  3. What does Yahweh value?

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