What is Salutary?

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“The ear that listens to salutary reproof is at home among the wise” (Prov. 15:31). This is a truly valuable aphorism for the Christian mind to contemplate. We do not like being reproved very often, but this kind of reproof suggested here can be very valuable to us. “Salutary” means something that is healthy, something favorable to the health of the mind, the body and more importantly in this case, to the soul.

A reproof may at first be experienced as something unpleasant, even unwelcome. But, if it is appropriate, if it is directly related to something we have done that is wrong, it can produce good effects, beneficial rewards for us in the end. This, of course, requires that we hear it. That is what is meant by the opening words of this aphorism, “The ear that listens…” The act of listening requires one’s full attention. The end desired in listening is understanding. To listen well to a reproof, a salutary reproof, requires that we be humble enough to hear it in its proper intent. It implies that we must accept the fact that we did something wrong in either our words or our actions.

This is why the latter part of the aphorism is important too. It is important for the baptized Christian to know that he or she is still a sinner. If we think that we do no wrong, or if we believe that because we are baptized we will never sin again, we are in danger of losing our souls. For such thinking is rooted in the foolish pride of the devil. That is why we need to find a home among those who are wise. Especially those who are wise in the faith, in the ways of God. For when they reprove us, it is from that wisdom. And if we listen to them in humility, we too will grow in the fear of the Lord that leads to wisdom.

This is the value of the Christian community. It is in the community of the People of God that we are reproved out of the wisdom and knowledge of God. It is this wisdom alone that is rooted in unconditional love and in unrelenting forgiveness. It is a fact that because we are flawed and out of either ignorance or pride we make mistakes, we are often in need of salutary reproof. To recognize one’s weaknesses is to be open to such reproof, and to the growth that can come from listening to it. God’s grace is in such reproofs.

Lord, help us to be aware of our own failings and give us ears to hear, and the courage to respond to, any salutary reproofs that come our way from those who are wise in the faith. Help us also to seek and to find a home among the wise. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen!

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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.