It is such a simple verse from the wisdom of Solomon. Just 13 words - not hard to understand necessarily - but certainly challenging to consistently put into practice.
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. Prov. 18:2 ESV
Or maybe you prefer a more modern translation of that proverb:
Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions. Prov. 18:2 NLT
The Book of Proverbs shares lots of contrast between foolishness and Godly wisdom. True wisdom is rooted in the fear of the Lord and given in the Bible’s pages. And while many would agree that the Bible contains wisdom, there is a temptation for you and me as we read a verse like this. It is tempting to take this verse and too quickly “count myself out” as the fool that is described.
So instead of counting yourself out as the fool, take a moment to pause and think about something. Think about the last disagreement/argument you had with your spouse. Remember how the disagreement started? Take a moment to think honestly about what was said by you AND by your spouse. Ask God to help you see what was really happening, especially on “your side” of the conversation. Now here’s the question: Were you truly seeking understanding in that conversation, or was your primary motive really to just get your point across to your spouse?
Way too many times in disagreements with my wife, Shawn, my “real goal” is not to listen for understanding her point of view, but rather to express what is important to me. And beyond just expressing it, to make sure she understands how my opinion needs to really matter. But while expressing how you feel is important in relationships, the Lord in His Word has called us to prioritize seeking understanding over expressing our opinion.
So the truth for me (and maybe for you) is that I am the fool of Proverbs 18:2 at times with my wife. And as you would likely agree, no one wants to be a fool. But that is what I am when I choose to prioritize expressing my opinion over seeking understanding. Here is what a couple of other sources shared on the fool described in this verse:
“A fool does not want to listen; he wants to talk. He does not want instruction; he wants expression. He does not want to learn; he wants to teach.” (1)
“This proverb tells us that a person who does not take pleasure and delight in better understanding is a fool. The fool doesn't think he needs better insight or more information. He does not search out things that would increase his intelligence or expand his understanding of things - especially those that involve seeing things from God's point of view. The fool thinks that he possesses enough knowledge and understanding. He is overconfident in his own intelligence and therefore thinks the best thing is for him to show his greatness and wisdom by revealing his mind to anyone who will listen. Self-satisfaction with our own wisdom is a very dangerous malady…and when we do not have a teachable spirit, we place ourselves in a very proud and arrogant place. God will have to humble such a man…When my mouth is running - my ears are usually ineffective in helping me grasp wisdom.” (2)
I would encourage you to go back and read those two shared statements again. Can you honestly recognize that you are likely displaying some of those foolish characteristics as you communicate with your spouse? Do you really have a teachable spirit?
What Solomon shares in Proverbs 18:2 is the same wisdom that Steve Covey communicated in his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People that was published many years ago. Covey’s principle was: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” (3). From my perspective, Covey was simply reiterating the wisdom Solomon shared. And we would be wise to heed that wisdom.
Where Do I Go from Here?
So if, as you read this, you are feeling the Spirit’s conviction that you too have been the fool of Proverbs 18:2, then the first step is to confess that honestly to the Lord. The first step to real transformation as we follow Christ is true repentance. So call out to the Lord in honest confession. Ask Him for transformation over time in helping you prioritize seeking understanding instead of just expressing your opinion.
I would also encourage you to take about 20 minutes to listen to a podcast my wife and I did on this. It is actually the most listened to podcast we have to date. In that episode, we share some ways you can begin to truly seek understanding as you grow your communication as husband and wife. We will share links to that podcast at the close of this article. You can find us wherever you listen to podcasts.
But until you make time to listen to that podcast episode, here are a couple of quick things we can share to help you get moving in the right direction. Again, there will be much more shared in the podcast episode:
#1: Ask Clarifying Questions. One of the things I share with couples and have to remind myself of often is simply to “ask clarifying questions”. This is so vital to really seeking understanding from our spouse and is often neglected, since we foolishly think we know what our spouse is thinking or what their reasoning is. Humble yourself by asking questions that truly seek to understand. And resist the temptation to ask questions with the underlying motive to help them see “your side” of things. Remember the priority God gives us is first seeking understanding.
#2: Ask God to Help You. You might be saying “well, of course” as you read “Ask God for help”. But my experience has been that I do not always go there, but often lean on my own understanding or wisdom instead. When you feel the “temperature” of the conversation with your spouse going up, pause and pray a silent prayer. And remember God has given you ultimate help in The Helper - the Holy Spirit. Check out this encouraging verse: For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you. We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives. Colossians 1:9 NIV
Prayer: Lord, I confess that I do not have an innate desire to seek understanding, but rather naturally just want to talk about what is important to me. Thank You, Lord, for Your promise to forgive and cleanse me when I confess. Help me to grow in my consistency in truly seeking understanding from my spouse. As I cooperate with Your Spirit, transform me so that I can grow in my understanding, communication, connection, and gratitude for the spouse You have given me. In the Name of Jesus.
Links to Our Podcast:
Written by Glen Solberg, Abiding Marriage, 2023. Send comments or questions to info@AbidingMarriage.org
(1) Let God Be True Website online post
(2) Calvary Baptist Jonesboro Website - Proverb a Day Feb 2010
(3) Covey Website article: https://www.franklincovey.com/habit-5/
Image: By Atanas Paskalev from Pixa