Moshe Ben-Chaim

"One who conceals hatred [has] lying lips; and one who brings out slander is a fool". (Proverbs 10:18)

How can King Solomon say that this person has "lying lips"? He didn't say anything, he didn't perform any action whatsoever. But to understand the king's statement, we must understand the underlying motivation of such a lie. For this is truly what King Solomon wished to transmit: the flaws of human personalities. But then we are startled that the king says if a person takes his suggestion, and doesn't conceal the hatred, that he is again criticized. This poor soul can't win! It is interesting how King Solomon describes the second case, one who "brings out" slander. Why not just say one who "speaks" slander? Furthermore, why is the critique that this person is a "fool"? Wherein lies the lack of wisdom? We have a tradition that all elements of a single verse must be connected. Therefore, what is the commonality that ties both statements in this verse?

I feel the first lesson is that inactivity is akin to action. Just because we don't act, this does not mean that we didn't "do" something evil. If one is drowning and I stand idly by, I killed that person, although I didn't act. Similarly, if I hate someone for some evil he performed, and I don't tell him as I should, then I am literally "lying". This explains why King Solomon says I have lying "lips". My lips have acted equally now, as when I speak a lie. It matters none that I was silent: the corruption of my life of lies is equal, since it is my internal values that lead me in corrupt actions. And whether a liar speaks or remains silent, his values are equally corrupt. This teaches us an important 2nd lesson, that people value the external masqueraded world, over the true, internal world of our minds and hearts.

Lesson 3 is more primary. "Why" does one lie in this case? It is because a person is quite insecure. He fears others not smiling at him, not accepting him, and thereby diminishing the person's self image. If I were to tell the person I hate that he is wrong, he might be quite angry at me. It is this need to maintain a self image of others liking me, that caused me to remain silent. This means that my happiness comes from how I feel others view me. And it doesn't even matter if they "do" feel a certain way or not: all that matters is how I "think" they feel about me. That means that I am living a fantasy. This was suggested by my friend Adam Frankel, as we discussed this verse over Rosh Hashannah.

This is a clear case of insecurity. Our egos are always seeking the point that people would rather stay silent towards one who wronged them, and sustain this relationship. It is odd:  someone hurts another person. But yet, the hurt party prefers a hurtful relationship with this abusive person, instead of losing their approval. A phenomenon seen in abusive marriages. But this is how far the need for approval goes.

It is this need that also ties together the two statements in this verse. Why is a slanderer called a "fool"? And why does he "bring out" the slander? Why can't he keep his opinions to himself? "Bringing out" the slander is quite telling. One does so, since it satisfies something in him. There is a need. If a person does not speak, he feels his opinions are just that: opinions, or fleeting thoughts with little substantiation. But by speaking, these words now enter the word stage...they are now "real". And therefore, so is my opinion. People feel that the spoken word partakes of greater reality, than mere thoughts. But why is that? It is because when we speak, it is always "to other people". Again, we see that people greatly value how others respond to them. So when I speak, and others agree, I feel substantiated, because I base my values on others, and not on God. 

Now, why are we called fools if we cater to this need of "bringing out" slander? This is because we are not following wisdom and reason, but instead, our emotional needs. King Solomon is attempting to direct his reader at the realization that following emotions, ipso facto, means we do not follow reason. We are thereby fools.

We may also ask why the abusive party performed an abusive act? It was precisely because he estimated his victim as one who cares about what he says. This means that if the victim was one who didn't care for social approval, the abuser would not have abused: he would know the reputation of this person as an independent thinker, not one concerned about the speech of others.

What we should do, is approach our abusers and firmly, but properly, express how their words are wrong, sinful, and hurtful. But we should not slander, as King Solomon teaches.

King Solomon said much with few words. The true Torah life demands a person become independent and seeking only truth: that which appeals to our minds. So real are ideas and truths, that on one occasion when Einstein calculated an eclipse, he did not need to step outside or approach a window so as to witness the physical phenomenon in nature, while all others did responding "Einstein was right". Einstein's truth was based on what his mind perceived. Our exact point.

We must abandon the need for approval, if we are going to progress towards greater truths. For if our insecure needs outweighs truth, we live a life of lies. In fact, when we care only for what is real and true, we have so much less anxiety and stress. Yesterday I saw a sign posted in a store which read, "90% of daily stress comes from how people look at us". If that is true, we've all just learned how to become 90% happier!