He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, and he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself
This is the first lesson for those who enter into the house of wisdom. Cynicism and criticalness are not welcomed by anyone and especially those who need it most. Keep your negative comments about others to yourself or those who will listen.
scoffer: This is the Hebrew word lis which means scorning, mocking, derision, put-downs, etc. This is the person who uses the tool of critique to make himself look intelligent and superior. It is very easy to see what we don’t like or what is wrong with a person or their work or their style. The ability to pick at people is a selfish pursuit. That is why it is labeled a fool’s pursuit. It is selfishness expressed through condemnation, critique, and mocking. Sometimes this is just the tone of voice one uses to describe one’s achievements. Sometimes it is the words that are chosen. But what Solomon is trying to get us to understand is that this type of behavior will not build a great life. It seems like this is an easy way to build one’s reputation – by critiquing others. But even if you are insightful and get paid to do it, it does not build life; it builds alienation and death.
Nobody likes to be corrected or have their flaws pointed out. Everyone wants people to focus on the good points, the helpful or positive aspects of what was being done.
There are some who become scoffers in every area of their life. At home they can point out the one flaw when their children attempt to clean their room. They can point out the one thing at the restaurant that is not right about this meal. They can detail all the mistakes of their boss at work. They are ready at a moment’s notice to tell people what is wrong with their church. If you are this kind of person, stop. You don’t have to be this way. It will accomplish a shallowing of relationships and distance from others.
I grieve as I watch people adopt this critical attitude about every area of life and then reap a life of bitterness and loneliness with no one to understand. It seems unnatural for this person not to be critical. But this was a learned behavior and can be changed. Start forcing yourself to list five positives about any person, place, or thing you come in contact with. You will find that as you would change from noticing the negative to digging for the positive that people will open up to you and a new kind of life will develop.
I know from personal experience a person can change from a scoffer who always sees and points out the negative to a person who enjoys the positives realizing that in a sinful, fallen world there will always be negatives. I was a scoffer during most of my teen years. Thankfully God brought me to Himself and began to deliver me from this selfish negativism.
Correct = dishonor; reproof = insults
Notice that all the results are negative when critique, correction, and reproof are involved with those who are not wise. Do not assume that people are wise and want to be corrected. By far, most people don’t want it. This is the great temptation for those who think that they are intelligent – that they can make a critique of other people’s life and work or that they are superior because they can see what is wrong with other people. It is not a sign of advanced intelligence that you can see what is wrong with other people. Any idiot can do that. That is called pride. It is the truly intelligent person who can see the strengths in a person when their negatives are so glaring.
Suppress the impulse to critique. It is not wisdom.
* This material is copyrighted © by Gil Stieglitz who retains all rights to the material. The verses quoted are taken from the NASB Bible 1995 edition.