Letting it all hang out
Proverbs 29 is the last chapter of Solomon’s proverbs in the Book of Proverbs. Proverbs 30 and 31 contain proverbs of some other people and we’ll look at those tomorrow.
Each of these chapters has literally been a collection of random proverbs. They have not been ordered into themes and there has been quite a lot of repetition. This is one of those books that was not written to be read as a whole form beginning to end. It’s a book for dipping in and out of. For taking a proverb here and a proverb there and letting it sit with you and take root in your soul.
One thing I love about Proverbs is the sense of application. These proverbs are not just to be read. That is pointless. They are meant to be applied. They are meant to change our attitudes toward other people. They are meant to change our lives.
And the two main themes of this chapter that stand out to me? Leadership and Parenting.
When good people run things, everyone is glad,
but when the ruler is bad, everyone groans. v2
A leader of good judgment gives stability;
an exploiting leader leaves a trail of waste. v4
A gang of cynics can upset a whole city;
a group of sages can calm everyone down. v8
When a leader listens to malicious gossip,
all the workers get infected with evil. v12
Leadership gains authority and respect
when the voiceless poor are treated fairly. v14
When degenerates take charge, crime runs wild,
but the righteous will eventually observe their collapse. v16
It takes more than talk to keep workers in line;
mere words go in one ear and out the other. v19
Everyone tries to get help from the leader,
but only God will give us justice. v26
That’s not just the bigwigs, you know. Not just the world leaders and leaders of political parties and church leaders and Chief Executives. That’s everyone in any capacity of leadership. That’s everyone. That includes you. Every leader of every committee, family, friendship group, team, Facebook group, project…as I say, everyone.
Wise discipline imparts wisdom;
spoiled adolescents embarrass their parents. v15
Discipline your children; you’ll be glad you did—
they’ll turn out delightful to live with. v17
I don’t know about you, but I’m not finding this as straightforward as it sounds.
And a final verse for consideration –
A fool lets it all hang out;
a sage quietly mulls it over. v11
I’ve always been very honest. Far too honest, some would say. To be honest, I’ve always been driven by the thought that if you really knew me, you would’t like me. So therefore I need you to know it all, so that you can choose whether to stick around any more and I don’t have to worry about you finding something out that would cause you to reject me.
So yes, I wear my heart on my sleeve. I don’t hide what I’m thinking or feeling. And on one level, it’s working well for me. A work colleague remarked the other day how impressed she is with my ability to be myself, the real me, in every situation I find myself in. I always bring myself, not some edited version of me.
But when is too much too much?
Is it too much at 18 to give a testimony in a church meeting about my difficulties at home, which leads to a row with my Dad about ‘airing our dirty laundry in public’?
Is it too much to be completely open with our adopted children about the fact they are adopted?
Is it too much to write honestly about the difficulties I have had as a parent and to trust people to be supportive ad not judgemental?
Is it too much to write the novel I had within me, believing that readers would not judge the author on the behaviour of the characters?
Is it too much to be honest in my Facebook posts about my struggles with negativity?
Is it too much to tell my husband exactly what I think of some of the things he does or doesn’t do with a view to improving our life together?
Is it too much to give an honest critique of a performance when asked ‘How was it?’ and risk offending, rather than just saying it was lovely?
Is it too much to give an honest answer when asked ‘How are you?’, when all people wanted to hear was ‘Fine’?
I don’t know. As my friend Joe is fond of saying, we all have lines and our lines are all different. Sometimes yes, I have gone too far. I have crossed the line.
So I cannot tell you what to do. What to say. How much to say. Who to share with. That is the essence of wisdom. Working it out for yourself.
And I guess that is the point of this verse. It’s about a deliberate working out. Not just letting it all hang out. That’s just lazy. That requires no thought. We just say whatever we want, whenever we want, regardless of the consequences. That’s not right at all.
I think sharing and being honest is really, really important, but there’s a right time and a right place. There’s a right way.
Wisdom is working out what that right way is.