She opens her mouth in wisdom,
And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
Now this verse is one of my favorites! While I have struggled with something to say about previous verses in our Proverbs 31 journey, I have no shortage of options here. I could talk about James and his famous treatise on the tongue, calling it a restless evil, or about Jesus and His keen observation of our words reflecting the state of our hearts, (along with His promise of judgment for careless speech). I could write all day about how fools rush to speak, while the wise weigh their words, or I could simply ask the question, “What is wisdom?” and be here until I die trying to answer it sufficiently.
I could talk about any of those things, but I won’t. Instead, I want to tell you why this beautiful verse is one of my favorites, along with some things that God has been teaching me about it. Why do I love it? First because its obvious exhortation makes it a great reminder to commit to memory, and second because God has used this verse to teach me what being kind isn’t:
KIND ≠ NICE
We always teach kids to “be nice,” right? When they hit someone, or say something mean, or snatch a toy from another kid, we say, “That’s not nice,” as we correct their behavior. All kids, I’m convinced, hear “Be nice!” an average of 172 times per day until they’re at least 12. As girls especially, learning manners and how to be nice and polite were moderately high priorities (at least in my generation and those prior). It’s no wonder that it’s ultra-ingrained in so many of our brains to try to be nice all the time!
Here’s the problem, though: By definition, being “nice” means that you’re concerned with pleasing others by being delightful, pleasant, and agreeable. Think on that for a moment. Should we, in all situations and at all times, be concerned with pleasing others by being delightful, pleasant, and agreeable? No! This is why I submit to you that “kind” is not exactly a synonym for “nice.” The two may be cousins, maybe even siblings, but they are NOT twins!
I have wasted so many opportunities by trying to be nice. For me, that means keeping my mouth shut when I shouldn’t have. Skirting around the truth. Even outright lying to avoid hurt feelings, awkward situations, and inconvenient drama. Too often, I have chosen to steel myself against the Spirit crying out inside me, and have gone the “smile and nod” route until I could extract myself from the situation. No hurt feelings this way. No arguments. No angry rebuttals to deal with.
How is this in any way a kindness? The other person may walk away feeling good because I resolved to be completely agreeable, but they are also walking away deceived. They think they have my approval or support when they don’t. They think things are okay between us when they aren’t. They think what they’re doing is right when, according to God’s Word, it isn’t. And I lied to them for the (ultimately selfish) sake of being “nice.”
Kindness is quite different.
Kindness is never selfish. Kindness is concerned less with one’s own outward behavior and more with what is truly the very best thing for the other person. Kindness is wholly true. Kindness is compassionate. Kindness is never a farce.
Being kind is quite akin to dying to yourself, forgetting what you think is owed to you (whether what is “owed” is as simple as an agreeable and trouble-free social experience with another person, or as serious as the healing of a deep wound previously inflicted by that person). The Hebrew word for kindness used here, in fact, is more often translated as “mercy” in other parts of the Bible.
Now mercy is wrapped up in truth and is an outpouring of oneself. Look to Jesus: He did not simply leave mankind to his own depravity, destined for judgment and eternal hell, because it’s not “nice” to say what needs to be said. Instead, He showed mercy — He showed kindness — by coming to tell us the truth about who He is and who we are. This is the only way to paradise, the only way to God.
A good bit of what He said wasn’t “nice” — in fact, much of it was quite offensive — but it was kind and merciful because He told the necessary truth in a way we could understand, and He gave all of Himself, covering us with His love.
Isn’t that our calling? As moms surely, but as Christ-followers in general. Thinking less of being “nice” to keep things pleasant, and thinking more of being kind, merciful, and truthful to keep things real.
Let us weigh our words; are they wise?
Let us examine our teaching (for everything we say is teaching someone something); is it kind and true?
Kindness and truth are inseparable, and meant by the Father to be intimately known:
Do not let kindness and truth leave you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good repute
In the sight of God and man.
♥ ♥ ♥
My Son, oh how I wish I could take all of the foolishness in the world and create a vaccine for you! It is too easy to be a fool, and too easy to fall in love with a fool who is a “really nice girl.” Of course, politeness and courtesy are good qualities to look for in a woman, but they are just scratching the surface. These things may help you notice her, but I pray that you would look deeper. Examine her character and take the time to get to know her heart. Is she being nice merely to make life more pleasant for herself and for those around her? Or is she truly concerned with being kind and true? With being merciful and compassionate? Is she courageous enough to gently and reverently say what needs to be said, even if it’s not received as being very “nice”? Has she recognized true wisdom, and is she striving to walk not as the unwise do, but as the wise, making the most of every opportunity? Now this woman, if you find her, is a rare treasure.
My Love, you know my weakness here. You know that I struggle with how to speak the truth in love, and when to keep my mouth shut. Usually, I keep my mouth shut, but that is not always the answer. Encourage me to obey God, for I need courage! Help me to seek wisdom, for I am too often unwise. Pray for the Holy Spirit to give me words, for mine are feeble and often too harsh. Thank you, Love, for loving me despite myself.
My God, oh I need help, help, help!!! Enable me to hear You, fill me with courage in obedience, pour out mercy, kindness, and truth through me. Help me to die to myself and to completely serve You. You are the only source of kindness, truth, mercy, compassion, tenderness, wisdom, and understanding. Give me Your eyes and Your words in my every dealing with all of your creation. I want everything about me to point to You, and I know how miserably I fall short. Help, help, help!!!!
♥ ♥ ♥
(This post is part of a series on Proverbs 31. Click here to see all posts in this series.)