Proverbs 12:16 

16A fool’s wrath is known at once, But a prudent man covers shame. 

Paul writes in Romans 8:29 that God has predestined His people to be conformed to the image of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Proverbs assist us in that process, directing us in the way of wisdom and teaching us what it is to imitate our Lord’s character. Today we are instructed to shun outbursts of anger and to cover shame.

Life is often hard. We live amongst sinful, selfish, silly people and we ourselves are often sinful, selfish, and silly. Hence, we often rub one another the wrong way; we say things that we shouldn’t say and do things that we shouldn’t do. People are often inconsiderate. Children are often disobedient. Fellow Christians are sometimes uncaring. Unbelievers are sometimes cruel. Others do things that are shameful or that embarrass us. So how do you respond?

On the one hand is the fool: A fool’s wrath is known at once. He responds to such things with wrath. He lacks self-control and is characterized by, in the Apostle Paul’s words, “outbursts of wrath” (Gal 5:20) – visible and vocal expressions of anger, indignation, and frustration. So your toddler throws a fit in the store and you explode at them, making a scene in the cereal aisle. Your child embarrasses you at church and you scold them through clenched teeth. Your wife doesn’t have dinner ready when you get home, and you yell at her in front of the kids. Your friend says something insensitive, and you immediately get mad and tell your other friends all about it. The fool lacks self-control over his emotions; he believes he has a right to just express them and let the chips fall where they may. But, make no mistake, he is a fool.

On the other hand is the prudent man: But a prudent man covers shame. He responds to embarrassing or frustrating things with self-control thinking others more important than himself. So if your toddler throws a fit in the store, you don’t imitate him but you correct him patiently and leave the cart full of groceries in the aisle if necessary to go to the car or even to go home and discipline him. If your child embarrasses you, you receive the embarrassment and govern your emotions and determine if your child’s action is just childishness or if it is disobedience – if it is childishness then you instruct privately covering their shame; if disobedience then you take them somewhere and discipline them privately to lessen their shame. If your spouse disappoints you, you don’t yell at them in front of your children but speak to them discretely to cover their shame. If your friend says something insensitive, then you restrain your hurt and determine if this is a matter that love should cover or if it is one you need to address with them directly. A prudent man possesses self-control and carefully weighs the things that have occurred rather than responding hastily.

So what of you? Are you a fool or are you a prudent man? Are you routinely characterized by outbursts of wrath? Or do you exercise self-control and do all in your power to cover the shame of others? “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (Pr 16:32). 

Reminded of our calling to be men and women of self-control who do not let our emotions rule our lives and destroy our relationships, let us confess that we are often foolish, that we often lack self-control and increase shame rather than covering it. And as we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel as we are able.