Proverbs 11:12

ESV Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense, but a man of understanding remains silent.
NIV Whoever derides their neighbor has no sense, but the one who has understanding holds their tongue.
NASB One who despises his neighbor lacks sense, But a person of understanding keeps silent.
CSB Whoever shows contempt for his neighbor lacks sense, but a person with understanding keeps silent.
NLT It is foolish to belittle one’s neighbor; a sensible person keeps quiet.
KJV He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace.

What does Proverbs 11:12 mean?

It is foolish to deride one's neighbor. This comes from the Hebrew term buwz, which implies contempt or a sneering form of spite. Snide, derogatory attitudes towards other people cause friction and hard feelings. If a man has good judgment, he will remain silent instead of deriding his neighbor. A flurry of insults never gains peace; refusing to say mean things about a neighbor contributes to a good, peaceful relationship (Proverbs 10:19; 29:20). At minimum, the choice to hold one's tongue gives opportunity to rethink before saying something which cannot be taken back.

The apostle Paul counsels: "Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all…Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:17–18, 21). In the following chapter, he writes, "'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no wrong to a neighbor" (Romans 13:9–10).

It has been observed that good fences make good neighbors; a certain level of separation and calm is important to getting along with others. Refusing to confront a neighbor verbally, and keeping attitudes like derision or arrogance in check, is even more effective than a fence.
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