Don’t Feed the Trolls (Proverbs 20:3)

Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man,
But any fool will quarrel.

Proverbs 20:3

This proverb struck me as a reminder on multiple levels.

First, the reminder to stay away from outbursts of anger and arguments in general is good. For many years, I was prone to violent outbursts. By the grace of God, human beings did not bear the brunt of my young, ill-controlled anger, but various inanimate objects did. Over time, God brought me around to the realization that He wants me to be self-controlled. Work began and the outbursts are, by God’s grace, a fairly rare occurrence today. And it is good to be reminded that the work is not complete. The outbursts are still possible and I must remain diligent to keep anger in check.

Second, the reminder that controlling my anger is an honorable thing. The modern American world does not put much stock in the concept of honor — because reasons? — but God still honors those who are self-controlled and not prone to outbursts. And the world at large has a grudging respect for those who remain calm in difficult circumstances. Whose honor am I concerned with? God’s, of course. I would rather please God and be self-controlled than worry about the ever-changing mores of society.

Third, the Internet Age has seen the advent of trolls. These people were always there, but the internet has emboldened them and brought still more of them out of the places they lurked. The relative anonymity of social media and other platforms allows these folks to run around stirring the pot with little fear of reprisal. The second part of the verse is dedicated to trolls at all times (any fool will quarrel) and to me whenever I engage a troll. Even if I “win” against a troll, I will have lost. And, as many know, there is no winning against internet trolls. A mythic troll I might have stood a chance against, but internet trolls are another matter entirely. Suffice to say that engaging a troll never ends well for me and God warned against the behavior that prompts me to engage in argument with those folks. Any fool will quarrel, it requires a degree of self-control and wisdom to walk away.

The application is straightforward: avoid argument and outbursts of anger where- and when-ever reasonable to do so. There is a time when argument must be made, it takes wisdom to know when that is. I must pray for the wisdom to know when argument is warranted and when I will just be feeding the trolls.

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