Proverbs 15:5 Shows This Kind Of Foolishness Is As Old As Humankind

“A fool despises his father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent.” Proverbs 15:5

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Reading this proverb we can see that this kind of foolishness is as old as humankind. It seems that this particular foolishness, of despising the wisdoms being passed down by the fathers, the elders, is no longer the sole province of the young against their parents, or any other authority, but has become a “badge of honor” among large numbers of people of all ages in society today.
The ancient irony remains true too. Suffering is always the result of such behavior. This is as true today as it was in the time of the compilers of these proverbs. Wisdom denied is always a direct path to suffering.

What is wisdom? It is true knowledge, gained over time, through many experiences. In another sense, it is a natural ability to understand things that most others cannot understand. Most importantly, it is knowledge of what is proper, what is good. In other words, it is a product of good sense and reasonableness.

It is a matter of good sense to recognize the value of such knowledge being passed on by those who are older, more experienced in life. But that kind of good sense is also a product of humility. Humility is a virtue. It is something that must be practiced often enough that it becomes a habit. The young who have not lived long enough to experience the wisdom of humility, can often be excused for their foolishness. If they have not grown stiff-necked, they can still be taught, they can learn the value of listening to the wisdoms of the past. It is a painful process, because it involves a “letting go” of the ego and its often false sense of power and absolute authority.

But those who have refused to let go of their false pride, who have carried this foolishness into their adult lives, are the cause of much suffering in the world; their own and others. Such prideful behavior has been the downfall of many. In Chapter 16 of Proverbs we see it put this way, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18) The Greek playwright, Sophocles, gave an example of this truth in his play, Oedipus, the King. A thousand years after Sophocles, Shakespeare gave us other examples with his MacBeth and King Lear. It is foolish to deny the truth, yet we do. And when we do, we experience the painful consequences of that denial. It is inevitable; now, or later. But the one who is awakened to his/her foolishness is able to learn from his/her experience and to begin to practice the virtue of prudence, the virtue of self-discipline. He or she can learn to use good judgment. This is the process of maturing in character and in faith. It is the habits of humility and prudence that lead us to our greatest freedom.

Lord, give us the graces we need to understand your wisdom and to accept it with humility and prudence. There is no wisdom greater than that which you have given us in your laws, your decrees, and your commandments. Strengthen our hearts and minds to see and to do your will. We wish to be freed from our foolishness and to grow ever more prudent in our willingness to serve you in all things. In Jesus’ name we pray.

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.