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Common Sense and Our Speech
Proverbs 11:12 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
12 He who belittles his neighbor is in want of heart,
but a man of understanding remains silent.
He who belittles his neighbor is in want of heart: The Hebrew word (בּוּז buz) rendered belittles (criticizes) refers to one who despises others, looks down on them with contempt, and may even verbally assault others. This person is in want of heart, as Solomon expresses it. The Hebrew (חֲסַר־לֵב chaser leb) is rendered (or rather interpreted) as “lacks sense” in other translations. (ESV, LEB, CSB, and NASB) This arrogant person lacks good sense and wisdom and good judgment or discernment in his life.
but a man of understanding remains silent: Proverbs many times warns about the foolishness of saying too much and the wisdom of watching your words or remaining silent (חָרַשׁ charash), as many words will eventually lead to the moment when they become hurtful words.
The harm that comes from many words is inevitable. This is especially true of one who is in want of heart or lacks good judgment (common sense). No one should say hurtful things or reveal confidential matters through unguarded speech. If we were to do so, we would lose people’s trust. Occasionally, we feel the urge to belittle, disparage, demean, or deride our neighbor, a friend, family members, church members, or coworkers, as maybe we have some contempt for another. Perhaps we feel that the person is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserves scorn. However, such a verbal assault would only divulge our lack of good judgment or common sense, literally in want of heart or lack of heart. This person’s mindset is missing something deep down within his soul, as he feels superior to those he condemns with his rhetoric.
Such a person in “want of heart” is one who does not care about the consequences of what he says. In some cases, it is the person showing a bad motive, but he also reveals a want of appreciation. He attempts to ignore the penalties or consequences, which will not save him from them. On the other hand, a man of understanding has the wisdom and insight to see the end result of unguarded words, and so he restrains himself in such a time. It is only the person in want of heart, that is, who lacks wisdom, who will disdain, disrespect, even scorn for those he comes across in life. A man of understanding, if he has nothing good to say because there is nothing good to be said, out of human respect and decency, he will say nothing, he will simply remain silent.