At thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore (Ps. 16: 11)
It is an honour for a man to cease from strife: But every fool will be meddling.Proverbs 20:3
A lot of wisdom is crammed into this short proverb. First we are told that walking away from a fight can be honorable. The reason many men quarrel or fight or contend is that they believe that it is necessarily dishonorable not to. They think that a masculine response has to confront every insult or slight, and yet we are told here that it can be honorable to just walk away.
We are taught this elsewhere in Proverbs.
“The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult.” (Proverbs 12:16, ESV).
The AV has “covereth shame” here, meaning that the prudent man is carrying the shame of the man who insults. The insulting one is the shamed one. He disgraces himself by his behavior, and the prudent man overlooks it.
At the same time, there are times when a man’s office and responsibility are all tied up in the insult, and when that happens, a prudent man draws a firm line. “These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee” (Titus 2:15).
There is a stark difference between running away from a conflict like a coward, and stepping away from a conflict like a judicious Christian man. It is our responsibility to know and practice the different. There is a difference between getting beat up and turning the other cheek, in other words.
The second half of the proverb is also instructive. While it is honorable for a man to step away from strife, there is another kind of man who meddles. He is a fool. He doesn’t have strife on his hands yet, but he is going to in a minute.
The wise man knows what makes strife go away, and the fool does not know what makes it come.