7 Proverbs for Skilled Living

by Cameron Schaefer on July 28, 2008

Nearly every morning for the past 5 years I have sat down and read a chapter from the book of Proverbs.  Since there are 31 in all it sets up nicely for reading one a day.  It continues to amaze me the depth of wisdom found in each chapter covering every area of life from relationships to money to career advice.  If you have never read the book of Proverbs I highly recommend it.  Here are seven that enjoy terribly and share with you in hopes that they will benefit you as much as they have me:

“The wicked flee though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” – Proverbs 28:1

Ever had someone start defending themselves before you even threw out an accusation?  Guilt has a funny way of making people weak and paranoid. We’ve all been there before and it’s a miserable way to live.  Hence the huge weight being lifted off our shoulders we often experience when we confess a wrongdoing.

On the opposite end, if you live with integrity and complete honesty you are, “relaxed and confident,” using the words of Eugene Peterson.  When the company has an audit or your work is investigated in some way you can be strong because you know you are in the right, bold as a lion.

“One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.” – Proverbs 11:24

Most of us have heard the age-old adage, “It is better to give than receive,” and gave it a smile and nod, not paying it much mind.  Perhaps though there is a bit more depth to this idea than we realize.  Generosity obviously benefits the person on the receiving end, but the effects on the giver can be just as strong if not stronger. This principle applies to giving money as well as time and resources.

A 1998 study at Cornell University found that volunteering increases a person’s energy, self-esteem and sense of mastery over life. Other studies have shown that volunteers live longer and experience better health.  In a famous study at Harvard, the “Mother Teresa effect” was born after, “Researchers showed 132 Harvard students a film about Mother Teresa’s work among the Calcutta’s poor, and then measured the level of immunoglobin A present in their saliva. The test revealed markedly increased levels of Immunoglobin A, which is the body’s first defense against the common cold virus — all after simply witnessing somebody else involved in charity work.” (Sound Medicine, emphasis mine).  Start giving today!

“A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown, but a disgraceful wife is like decay in his bones.” – Proverbs 12:4

One of the most important decisions you will make in your life is who you marry.  All of us have seen great marriages as well as terrible ones and the products of each seem to multiply over time.  Nothing is worse than seeing two people suffering through a miserable marriage.  It really is like decay in the bones.  On the other hand, a great marriage is a pleasure to be around, the effects seem touch everyone in close proximity.

People often ask how I knew Marelize was “the one.” While I don’t think there’s a right answer to this question, I always say that I knew by the fact that I was proud to introduce her to my family and friends.  When they would meet her for the first time I didn’t even feel like I needed to be in the same room.  She could shine on her own and I knew they would see the quality of her character without me needing to point it out.  A spouse with character is indeed a great reward.

“One person pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.” – Proverbs 13:7

In a culture that worships the rich and famous it is common to see people trying to project the image of wealth without actually having any.  And just the process of trying to look like you have it all can actually keep you from really acquiring any of it.  Going into debt in an attempt to keep up with the Jones’ is incredibly foolish, but all too common.

As Warren Buffet so aptly stated, “I just naturally want to do things that make sense. In my personal life too, I don’t care what other rich people are doing. I don’t want a 405 foot boat just because someone else has a 400 foot boat.” Much better to live below your means and slowly build your wealth even if it costs you some cool points.  In the end you’ll be the one everyone is trying to keep up with.  Financial advisor and talk show host, Dave Ramsey says it well “Live like no one else now so you can live like no one else for the rest of your life.”

“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” – Proverbs 13:20

For the first several years of your life it is your parents that have the greatest influence on you.  Then around middle school it is your friends that become your primary influences for the remainder of your life.  My friend Aaron Stern (great new blog) always says, “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” He is on to something huge.

People naturally begin to imitate the people they spend the most time with.  If your friends like to whistle, you will mostly likely find yourself whistling after spending time with them.  If they like to read, chances are you will pick up a book the next time you’re out.  All of these things add up and largely determine the future outcome of your life.  So hang out with quality people, wise people…and keep yourself from fools.

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” – Proverbs 15:22

One thing that never ceases to amaze me is people’s fear of asking questions.  Businesses go bankrupt, opportunities go down the drain, and people make stupid decisions because they don’t take the time to ask others who have been there before.  Often times it is simply pride.  None of us like admitting that we don’t know what we’re doing.

The most successful people in the world all have a few things in common – they understand the importance of trusted advisers and they ask questions.  In my own life I have a group of men that I consistently go to with important life decisions.  They each have different backgrounds so the chances are high that I will get well-rounded counsel.  Their wisdom has saved me time and time again from making poor decisions.  Read more about building a personal council or board of directors here.

“Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence, and do not claim a place among his great men; it is better for him to say to you, ‘Come up here,’ than for him to humiliate you before his nobles.” – Proverbs 25:6-7

While most of us are not likely to find ourselves in the presence of an actual king anytime soon, all of us have “kings” in our lives, people like our bosses, mentors and heroes.  One of the most awkward moments happens when someone assumes they are “one of the guys,” when they are not.  This is often a result of thinking of yourself more highly than you ought.

Situations like this can be all together avoided by being humble and letting others highlight you rather than jumping up to highlight yourself.  If you truly deserve credit and honor you won’t need to point it out, it will find you.

Have any favorite Proverbs of your own?  Please share! AND…

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Ankesh Kothari July 28, 2008 at 11:00 pm

Thanks Cameron. I’ve read the book of Proverbs once – and loved reading it.

I also keep Brian Tracy’s book of quotes “Universal Laws of Success” close by. This book works as my “horoscope.” Any day I’m feeling like procrastinating and don’t know how to proceed, I open the book on a random page and try to follow the instructions / morals of the quote on that page.

fathersez July 29, 2008 at 2:13 am

I love the one on the wife.

I, too, cannot quite explain how my wife and I ended up as, well, husband and wife. But that is one of the smartest things I have done in my wife, perhaps THE smartest.

I tell myself that in the more serious matters, God guides me. The other smaller ones like screwing up my financial management etc., He lets me do it all by myself….hehe

Muju July 29, 2008 at 11:44 pm

I read Proverbs too! One chapter per day.. God’s word is really a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.

Akshay Kapur July 30, 2008 at 7:08 am

I really like this: “Live like no one else now so you can live like no one else for the rest of your life.”

Also, what you said about introducing your wife is so true!!! This is how I feel about my girlfriend. She can just carry herself and I respect her for it. I always thought it had a lot to do with personal standards, but I’ve found that her standards are a lot different from mine, so maybe that’s not it either.

I feel like you could’ve written an individual post for each one of these. It was a lot to digest all at once! Thanks again for a great post. :)

Cameron Schaefer July 30, 2008 at 7:52 am

@ Akshay,

I have a bad habit of cramming a lot into one post…I think I’ll take your advice and try breaking big posts like this into individual ones next time.
Also, you better watch out…sounds like your girlfriend might be a keeper! :)

Brad Spencer July 30, 2008 at 8:23 am

Hey Cameron, I just discovered your blog through Jonathan Mead at Illuminated Mind.net. I love this article. I printed out the entire Book of Proverbs my last semester in college and started reading it. I wanted to challenge myself to read one chapter per day to keep focused on what I needed to.

Well, long story short, still haven’t finished reading it (kicking myself). Thanks for getting me back on that path!

Great post and I just subscribed to your RSS feed!

Cheers,

Brad Spencer

Alik | PracticeThis.com July 30, 2008 at 1:35 pm

““Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” – Proverbs 15:22″

Mind if I challenge this one? Too many advisers just kill the plan. This is what I witness all the time.

But this one has proven to be the best:
““Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” – Proverbs 13:20″

Great stuff – loved reading it.

Matios Berhe July 30, 2008 at 2:29 pm

Wow. I want to hug you with my arms. Because … arms aren’t usually used for hugs? This was amazing though. Thank you beri mach.

Cameron Schaefer July 30, 2008 at 3:59 pm

@ Brad,

So glad you found the blog and thanks for all of your great comments! I love all the discussion going on lately, it really makes blogging worthwhile. Hope you get back to reading Proverbs and it benefits you as much as it has me.

@ Alik,

It’s true, there are times when too many cooks in the kitchen can spell trouble. I think the key is not to dismiss advisers entirely, but simply to be selective in who you let into your life and learn how to make the final decision, even if it rubs someone the wrong way every once and a while.

I agree, “Walk with the wise…” is a wonderful piece of wisdom that we can all benefit from.

@ Matios,

This is the first time I’ve had one of my readers say they want to hug me…it gives me warm fuzzies inside! So glad that you enjoyed the post!

Mark McCullagh July 30, 2008 at 5:53 pm

Quite a coincidence since I have been reading Proverbs myself , after having just finished reading Psalms.

And I am also impressed with the depth of wisdom and insight in Proverbs.

I really enjoyed your interpretations. Look forward to more in the future.

Here’s my $.02 on this:

“Do not exalt yourself in the king’s presence, and do not claim a place among his great men; it is better for him to say to you, ‘Come up here,’ than for him to humiliate you before his nobles.” – Proverbs 25:6-7

This is similar teaching to the story Jesus told of the Pharisee and the tax collector praying in the temple. The Pharisee was busy describing how righteous and deserving he was, while the tax collector felt so sinful that he could not lift his head up and begged for mercy.

The point is to realize your position, you are God’s servant, and to humble yourself in His presence – “Blessed are the poor in spirit…”

Evelyn Lim | Attraction Mind Map July 30, 2008 at 6:39 pm

Hmm…I find what you shared about the Mother Theresa effect very interesting. Thanks also for sharing the various proverbs. I like them because most of them are very thought provoking!

Evelyn

Cam Cushing August 2, 2008 at 5:58 pm

@Alik

Good point. I’ve been in and seen many cases where too many advisers were brought on to give counsel. Some of these cases worked out well and some just died. The key component I saw in the successful cases (which I do not claim as my own) was in the handling of the advisers. When the person seeking counsel tries to please ALL of the counselors, the plan is doomed to fail (assuming two or more counselors disagree.) It is up to the person to reconcile the advice and to choose their own course of action. (perhaps even throwing out ALL of the advice) The beauty of having disagreeing counselors is that your ideas will be aired in front of trusted “devil’s advocates,” which will strengthen the idea / plan because weaknesses will be seen and addressed.

@Cameron Schaefer
Great blog! I have to read more.

Devin August 19, 2008 at 11:30 am

“A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct, but a man of understanding delights himself in wisdom” ~Proverbs 10:23

This has become my personal motto, it is my battle cry when temptation sets in and the foundation of my character. Or… at least I would like to think so. Too often I fall short, but as the Japanese proverb states: Fall down 7 times, stand up 8.

Ashton Fourie March 29, 2012 at 5:28 pm

I’ve also realized that reading proverbs over and over has an amazingly profound effect.

It seems that reading proverbs for the first time introduces you to “proverbs vocabulary” and then as you keep reading, that vocabulary gets richer and richer in meaning. So when you get back to Proverbs 1, the verse that you read a month ago, suddenly has a whole new meaning.

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