“Only by pride comes contention; but wisdom resides in those who listen and learn” —Proverbs 13:10
A number of years ago, Carolyn and I spent a few days camping on the flanks of Mount Rainier in Washington State. We were returning to our campsite one evening when we came across two large male bears brawling in the middle of a meadow. They were mauling one another, snapping, snarling, tearing up the ground and making a frightful fuss. We stopped to watch.
There was a hiker standing nearby and I asked him what the fight was about. “A young female,” he said. “Where is she?” I asked. “Oh,” he chuckled, she left the area about 20 minutes ago.” So, I mused, the ongoing squabble had nothing to do with the young sow; it was all about being the biggest bear.
It seems to me that most fights are “not about what they’re about,” if you know what I mean. They’re rarely about policy and principle, right and wrong; they’re mostly about pride. The Wise Man swings his axe at the root of the problem: The ground of all contention is hubris—insisting on our way, demanding our rights, defending our position, our turf and our egos. That’s something to remember the next time we find ourselves in a heated argument. We should stop and ask ourselves what the fight is really about.
On the flip side, “wisdom resides with “those who listen and learn.” (The Hebrew verb means, “to allow oneself to be instructed.”) Wise indeed are those who humble themselves—who set aside their own selfish aims and ambitions; who acknowledge the limits of their own understanding; who listen to the other person’s point of view; who allow their own ideas to be instructed and corrected. This is the wisdom from above that sows righteousness and peace wherever it is found (James 3:17,18).