The ABC’s of Wisdom: Building Character with Solomon - Discernment



When You’re in a Hole, Stop Digging


A discerning man keeps wisdom in view, but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth.

Proverbs 17:24


The particular Hebrew word translated “discerning” in this verse is very common in the Old Testament. It has the idea of considering a situation carefully, studying all the options, pondering possible courses of action, and then choosing the best course. By contrast, a fool pays no attention to anything around him but blithely lets his mind wander, and so stumbles from one predicament to another.

A father was talking with his son about sound finan­cial principles when the question arose: What do you do when you are already in debt? The answer is not hard to find: Get out of debt as quickly as possible. The father coined a pithy aphorism he called the First Rule of Holes: “When you’re in a hole, stop digging.”

It makes sense, doesn’t it? When you find yourself in a financial hole, stop digging! You’re already in a hole. Don’t make matters worse by using your credit cards. If you want to get out of the hole, your first step is to make sure you’re not digging yourself in deeper.

The same principle applies across the board. What’s the first step in losing weight? Stop digging! You’re al­ready in a hole and it’s a tight fit because your waistline has expanded. Lay off the fat, forget about sweets for a while, and stock up on alfalfa sprouts.

Not long ago someone asked me a very pointed ques­tion. This person had been involved in a pattern of sinful behavior. In all seriousness, he wanted to know why he should stop, since he had been doing it for such a long time. My answer was simple: If I were talking to a thief, I would tell him to stop stealing. If I were speaking to a murderer, I would say, “Stop killing.” If a student has been cheating on final exams, I would say, “Stop cheat­ing.” The first step in changing your behavior is to stop the destructive actions that have gotten you in the mess you are in.

When Jesus met the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11), He didn’t condemn her, but He didn’t condone her behavior, either. After routing her accusers He told her, “Neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin” (v. 11). Was this woman forgiven by Jesus? I believe she was. Did she have a new life? Yes, she did. But in point of fact, she had suddenly come from immorality into a relationship with Jesus Christ. He would not con­demn her, for she had condemned herself by her sin. But now that new life must be evidenced by a radical change in behavior: “Go and sin no more.”

Are you suffering from anger and bitterness? Do you feel trapped by repeated failure? Would you like to see true change in your life? Are you in trouble-morally, spiritually, financially, emotionally, or relationally? There are many things that you can do to help yourself. But none of them will do any good until you remember the First Rule of Holes: When you’re in a hole, stop digging.


Lord, I need Your help to stop doing the things that are hurting me so that I can begin to do the things that will make me better. Amen.


What “holes” are in you right now? Have you stopped digging yet?

In what areas of your life do you need discernment?


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