So, why is it we humans get ourselves into messes like this? Simple, we let our heart be our guide! But, you say, that’s what they told me I was supposed to do, follow my heart! Ugh, no! The scripture says the “heart is desperately wicked, who can know it?” And that’s because wisdom teaches us that our emotions can and do deceive us into thinking something is good for us when it really isn’t. But how are we supposed to learn those lessons? It used to be we had extended families that all lived close by and we could learn the wisdom of our elders in the loving acceptance of our home. But those days are long past as we’ve become so mobile and so disconnected!
Look at our lesson today in Proverbs 13:19-14:6:
A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul; but to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools. He who walks with wise men becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm. Misfortune pursues sinners, but prosperity rewards the righteous. A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous. The fallow ground of the poor yields much food, but it is swept away through injustice. He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite, but the belly of the wicked suffers want. Wisdom builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down. He who walks in uprightness fears the LORD, but he who is devious in his ways despises him. The talk of a fool is a rod for his back, but the lips of the wise will preserve them. Where there are no oxen, there is no grain; but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox. A faithful witness does not lie, but a false witness breathes out lies. A scoffer seeks wisdom in vain, but knowledge is easy for a man of understanding.
King Solomon had to learn many of these lessons the hard way and he gives us a way out of that painful path to learning by preserving wisdom for us in the pages of Proverbs.
A common trait of immaturity is the rush to do foolish things. It seemed a good idea at the time was a phrase I heard often from young men I had to arrest when I was a police officer. And most of the kids that did those stupid things sensed they had messed up the second they started making bad choices.
The Faith gives us the Path out of this dilemma by teaching us how to avoid trusting our momentary feelings and building our lives on the solid foundation of wisdom and that path can be summed up in three precepts that help us avoid trusting what seemed right – the Precept of Patience, the Precept of Companions, and the Precept of Perspective.
Patience gives me the time to learn that delayed gratification is wise and that I don’t HAVE to have it right this very minute. In fact, I heard a child psychologist say once that the greatest gift a parent can give a teenager is the gift of delayed gratification. But that can only come when I understand WHY my desires have to be tamed! Of course, then there are Companions. It’s true that if you hang out with dogs; you’re going to get fleas. So, if a young man shows me who his friends are, I’ll be able to tell him who he is, or at least who he thinks he is. We need to surround ourselves with good role models if we ever hope to learn how to live our lives well. And finally, Perspective. Notice how all these precepts insist on time. We can’t avoid the truth that life doesn’t have any shortcuts to happiness. It’s work. It’s attentiveness. It’s labor. But Perspective comes when we allow ourselves to believe in the wisdom of a faithful future to avoid mistakes now that will poison our future.
Today, I know it’s tempting to dismiss much of this as empty platitudes and old fashioned thinking, but remember, you can’t always trust your feelings! But you can trust the tested wisdom of the centuries and all that wisdom is available to you when you do the hard work of being Orthodox on Purpose!