“Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.” Proverbs 11:12
It’s such an easy thing to do: someone does something that you don’t think is right, and immediately your first response is to talk about them badly behind their back. It isn’t even always something that’s outright sinful…sometimes it’s just something that we think is dumb…or annoying. It feels good for us to air our opinion…to know that someone else has heard that we don’t agree with what so-and-so did; that we have better standards, or that if we had the chance, we would certainly do things better than they did. It can especially be easy to fall into this trap as we actually begin to desire the Lord, and start seeking Him more earnestly. As He begins to change our sinful hearts, we can quickly forget or overlook our own weaknesses, and think we have a right to talk badly about someone else because we’re growing in the Lord; being changed and made “more holy”. Or we think that focusing on someone else’s sin or weaknesses in our conversation is a good “object lesson” for others…when, really, it is simply making us feel better about ourselves, or even us trying to make ourselves look better to those listening…at the expense of others’ reputations. Would we want others to do the same to us; smearing our reputations to others? I’m guessing not.
“So-and-so is soooo annoying,” or, “I can’t believe so-and-so would do that…” or “So-and-so is weird…who would DO that,” or “I wouldn’t do what THEY just did!”…Any of these things sound familiar? These are all examples of what “belittling” means. And you know what? It is just as wrong to THINK things like this as it is to say them out loud. “Belittling” isn’t simply restricted to something that someone says out loud, but it also refers to what goes on in our hearts, and how we think about them, whether or not we say anything. The dictionary definition of “belittle” is: “to regard as less impressive or important than appearances indicate”. Basically, ‘looking down on someone’. But the Bible tells us to “regard others as more important than yourself”, and to put yourself in the lowest place (which would necessarily mean that you’d be looking up at them) instead of thinking of yourself as more worthy of honor than others.
I appreciate the straight-forward nature of Proverbs, and this proverb in particular gets right to the point when it says, “Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense”. Not only are we lowering their character in the sight of others, when we should be doing everything in our power to make sure that others think well of them (Romans 12:10), but we are also doing ourselves harm, for, when we allow ourselves to get caught up in thinking haughty thoughts about ourselves in relation to others, we are indulging in a subtle snare of the devil to suck us into pride. You might think that’s not so, but honestly if we were completely humble, we would never have a reason to belittle anyone. Think about it. The only time we belittle anyone is when we think that they are below us in some way – whether spiritually, or in general manners, or even just common sense. And the reason I know this is not godly is because…well…can you picture God doing it?? Can you? Can you picture Him sitting around saying, “I can’t stand so-and-so,” or “I wish so-and-so would just stop being so stupid”! And He of all people would have the right to say such things – I mean, He is perfectly wise! BUT…He is also perfectly humble. And this is why He does not look down on us, or speak ill of us, but is always SO patient. So, the next time we are tempted to belittle someone, or the next time someone else starts talking badly about a person…let’s heed this wisdom of Proverbs, and demonstrate our understanding of these things by “remaining silent”.
P.S. It is also very easy when we hear or read something like this to immediately think, “Oh yeah, I know someone who does that!” It happened to me even while God was showing me these verses. But that is not the point. In fact…that is the very thing I’m talking about! But what we must do is put aside every thought about every other person, and ask God to show us where we have fallen into these things ourselves…and ask Him to remove these bad tendencies from us, and to instead fill our hearts with a humble, genuine love for others.