Don't be proud, be humble. Don't do things that bring shame to yourself and to your family. Treat others with respect rather than offending them. Listen to both sides of a story before choosing which you will believe. Work at keeping your friendships. Many of Solomon's words from thousands of years ago still contain good advice for us today. Occasionally I find verses that aren't so applicable to us today and every now and then I omit one (leaving you to find it on your own if you're really curious!), but for the most part Solomon's words are still spot on. Human circumstances change, but I'm not sure our basic human nature has changed much at all.
Before destruction one’s heart is haughty, but humility goes before honor. If one gives answer before hearing, it is folly and shame. The human spirit will endure sickness; but a broken spirit—who can bear? An intelligent mind acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge. The one who first states a case seems right, until the other comes and cross-examines. An ally offended is stronger than a city; such quarreling is like the bars of a castle. From the fruit of the mouth one’s stomach is satisfied; the yield of the lips brings satisfaction. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. Some friends play at friendship but a true friend sticks closer than one’s nearest kin. (Prov. 18:12-24)
There were two verses that jumped out to me today. In v. 19, Solomon describes the impact of offending an ally or friend. They are "stronger than a city" and the quarrelling is like "bars of a castle." What do you think he means by that? It might help to remember that cities, and only cities, in Solomon's day were fortified by a wall. People gathered in cities for security - for protection from invaders and predators (human and animal), and to secure resources such as water and crops. We tend, today, to think of smaller towns and rural areas as being safer and the cities as more dangerous. So, you offend an ally and that offensive hardens and strengthens them against you. You "quarrel" - the offensive becomes public and widens - and now you are separated by words that have been said and actions that have been taken. That's my takeaway; perhaps yours is different.
Meditation: In v. 14, Solomon says: "The human spirit will endure sickness; but a broken spirit - who can bear?" Isn't that the truth? When we're sick, we come up with a game plan to get well. We stay in bed, take medication, drink plenty of fluids, follow our doctor's advice. But when our spirit has been broken, where do we turn? We're embarrassed to discuss it, even friends don't want to hear about it, and so we withdraw even further into ourselves. God offers love, grace, and support to help mend the broken spirit. As a Christian community, we are also told to help bear one another's burdens. Are you feeling broken today? Your situation doesn't have to be permanent. It won't be easy, but you can seek God's help (and professional help). Do you know someone that is broken? What can you do to help them?