9 Perfume and incense make the heart glad,
[also] friendship sweet with advice from the heart.
10 Don’t abandon a friend
who is also a friend of your father.
Don’t enter your brother’s house on the day of your calamity —
better a neighbor nearby than a brother far away.
There are times to rebuke, and there are times to edify. Sadly, people we are not related to often know what we need more than those we are related to. Sometimes those farthest away can see more clearly than those who are nearby.
Not that there are not times to rebuke, but it should not be for the purpose of tearing down.
6 Wounds from a friend are received as well-meant,
but an enemy’s kisses are insincere.
We can kid ourselves and believe flatteries, becoming deceived rather than facing the truth. A real friend won’t let that happen, however.
However, we often receive criticism without cause as well, and too often from those closest to us.
15 A leak that keeps dripping on a rainy day
and the nagging of a wife are the same —
16 whoever can restrain her can restrain the wind
or keep perfume on his hand from making itself known.
~ vv 15-16
I suppose Solomon might know about this, having somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 wives and concubines, but maybe we need to be realistic with this proverb. This can work both ways, after all. Men can belittle and tear down as easily as women do. Marriage is supposed to be all about building up, rather than tearing down.
14 Every wise woman builds up her home,
but a foolish one tears it down with her own hands.
I’ve seen plenty of men and women destroy themselves and those around them. They destroy their relationships because of addiction, greed, lust or just plain selfishness. They drive away those that love them and destroy their marriages, their relationships with their children, their relationships with their grandchildren, and then they at some point find themselves all alone.
Paul gives us some helpful instruction as well.
29 Let no harmful language come from your mouth, only good words that are helpful in meeting the need, words that will benefit those who hear them.
What will benefit the person? It depends entirely upon the situation. Perhaps they really do need a reality check. Perhaps they really are not looking at things realistically. If what they are doing is harmful, we have an obligation to speak up in love for the person.
On the other hand, maybe their pain is real. Maybe they could be doing better with a little healing encouragement. Maybe we don’t understand them because we haven’t tried, and perhaps understanding is what they really need most. Perhaps what they need is a boost rather than the boot.
Which should be our default? Did Christ automatically criticize the sinners of His day, or did He reserve His most severe remarks to those who were apathetic towards His teachings, God and others?
Discernment. It almost always comes back to that, does it? However, we cannot discern what we do not try to understand.
Because rebuke and reproof used unwisely destroys rather than edifies. It can destroy the relationship, and it can even destroy the person.