In this passage, we see some important principles for building and maintaining our relationships.
One of the key issues is watching what we say.
A wise man’s heart guides his mouth, and his lips promote instruction. Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. (16:23-24)
Whenever we talk to people, we truly need to consider what we’re saying. Are our hearts wise enough to know what to say, and when to say it? Are our words sweet to the souls of others and bringing healing to them?
These things build a relationship. On the other hand,
A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends (16:28)
There are people that are always tearing relationships apart instead of bringing healing to them. In some cases, they stick their noses into the affairs of others, spreading gossip and rumors concerning them, and causing their relationships to fall apart.
In other cases, they themselves are involved personally. Someone has hurt them, and instead of dealing with them face to face, they start complaining about them to others, and gossiping about what horrible people they are. But as Solomon says,
He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends. (17:9)
This of course does not mean that we should just ignore sin or try to hide sins that are causing great harm to others. However, every day people do sin against us whether intentionally or not. Most of the time, they’re minor annoyances. Sometimes they’re more major.
But small or great, we do not make things better by spreading gossip about others and complaining about them to the people around us. Rather, if it’s really bothering us, then we should do as Jesus commanded us, and confront our brother or sister face to face. (Matthew 18:15)
And when the issue is resolved, we then need to cover it over with forgiveness, and never bring it up again. Don’t say, “I thought I told you not to do that! How many times do I have to tell you?”
Rather, deal with the issue at hand, without referring to the past.
Sometimes, though, if the issue is really minor, you should just drop the issue, and let it go. Solomon tells us,
Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out. (17:14)
He who loves a quarrel loves sin; he who builds a high gate invites destruction. (17:19)
Sometimes my wife will get on my back for not doing things a certain way, and I’ll think, “It’s so minor! Why is she so upset about such a minor thing?”
But then God will tell me, “Yeah, it’s minor. So don’t waste your time arguing about it. Just do it! If you argue, all you’re doing is building a wall in your relationship. And if over the years you build it high enough, you can destroy your marriage.”
I often have to swallow my pride, but I think it’s one thing that has helped our marriage thrive up to this point.
Frankly though, I think she has to put up with a lot more from me than I do with her, so I’m truly grateful for her patience. Which brings up another point.
A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered. (17:27)
Even when we argue with people, we should use restraint in our words, and be cautious about how we say things. And we should be even-tempered. It’s when we lose our temper that we often say things we regret.
How about you? Are your words building up your relationships? Or destroying them?