The ABC’s of Wisdom: Building Character with Solomon - Open-Mindedness
Take Time to Hear Both Sides
The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.
Here is a piece of wisdom that could have been coined by Ben Franklin. There are two sides to every story-at least two and maybe more. This is the third warning in Proverbs 18 about the danger of forming hasty opinions. Verse 2 says that “a fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.” Verse 13 adds that “he who answers before listening-that is his folly and his shame.” Taken together, these three verses remind us that, in order to find the truth, we must first stop talking (v. 2), start listening (v. 13), and make sure we hear both sides before making up our minds (v. 17).
“The first to present his case seems right.” Certainly we all feel this way about ourselves. We all learn to make excuses early on-the dog ate our homework, we “accidentally” told a lie, we meant to return the phone call but then we forgot. If we are in a dispute with a friend or a coworker, we naturally bend the facts in our own direction, subtly shading the truth to make our case look stronger than it really is. We are not intentionally lying, which would unquestionably be sinful. No, what we are doing is harder to detect, though no less wrong. We are presenting the facts to make ourselves appear in the most favorable light possible. Most of us do this so instinctively that we don’t even realize it. We are all by nature biased in our own favor.
“Till another comes forward and questions him.” Suddenly our explanation doesn’t seem so strong and our excuses look like . . . excuses. What seemed to be an adequate defense now seems small and selfish and perhaps even deceitful.
For most of us, there is huge room for improvement in this area, both in how we present ourselves and how we evaluate others. On the one hand, we ought to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” about our own words and deeds. If we would do that, no surprise witness could ever impeach us. On the other hand, this proverb urges us to be slow to evaluate the facts of a given case. Here is a word of warning for teachers, principals, bosses, managers, department heads, and all those in authority. Don’t be taken in by the first person you hear. Take time to hear both sides. Ask hard questions. Make sure you get the facts.
Better to delay a decision than to wish you had. Better to be thought too cautious than to be, in fact, too hasty.
It was said of Christ that He was a man without guile. That means He had nothing hidden because He had nothing to hide. He never exaggerated because He was Truth personified. He never tried to fool anyone, and He was never fooled by anyone. That’s the standard for us to follow.
Lord Jesus, help me have the grace to tell the truth and wisdom to discern the truth today. Amen.
Do you agree that by nature we all shade the truth in our own favor? Name an area of your life where you need to stop making excuses and start telling the truth.
Can you think of a situation facing you right now where you need wisdom to determine the true facts of the case?
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