Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him. Proverbs 22, verse 15
We expect children to be full of folly. In our country today, we coddle our kids so much that we should expect ONLY folly from them. Even on the field of sports, we’ve made learning self-discipline so difficult that it amazes me our kids can ever develop any. All the parental helicoptering, scheduling and stress don’t do much to push aside folly and replace it with something useful in adulthood.
Knowing all that, would someone please define discipline? When I read this verse, I immediately get my hackles up because our post-modern America of Century 21 reads “the rod of discipline” to immediately mean something negative. I read it to mean punishment. Immediately I have this vision of some strict 19th century father whipping the backside of his son with a switch, angrily trying to instill ‘discipline’ into the boy. Immediately, I think that it’s more loving to coddle a child in folly than to be stern or austere in relating to little Johnny. Immediately, I get it wrong.
I get it wrong because the verse doesn’t appear to be talking about a punishing kind of discipline. I read the verse to mean ‘the rod’ to be bracing, like a rod in one’s back keeping your posture straight. It means being upright, self-controlled, self-respectful. Such self-controlling discipline does indeed drive out folly. It replaces that folly with virtue, recklessness with resolve. Sure, you could try to beat that kind of thing into someone but that never works. That kind of abuse and punishment just build resentment and anger. If you want to drive out folly, you don’t do it with abuse.
Instead, if you want to drive out folly, you do it with self-discipline, achievement and love. Left without those things, folly turns to danger. Without the check of self-control, folly takes bigger and bigger risks of foolishness until it finally crosses the line into serious transgressions. Affairs are foolish things done by adults seeking childlike affection. They always turn dangerous in some way. Theft is a foolish thing that leads to dangerous consequences. Cheating on a test at school is a foolish thing to do that leads to failure. Doing anything that makes you feel guilty leads to consequences.
So, again, if you want to drive out folly, do so with self-discipline. Teach others, maybe yourself, about self-control. For me, it’s a lesson in progress. It’s about learning who you can help and who you should simply pray for; it’s about learning how to truly love. If you want to drive out folly, achieve and overcome. Set a goal and work to attain it. Build real self-esteem by trusting in God to help you use your talents to the utmost. If you want to drive out folly, love. Listen when others are hurting; be a shoulder to cry on; care when it’s hard; choose to love anyway. Love to dare, and dare to love. Do it to drive out the foolish demons of apathy and anger.
Last night, I slept in my old room for the first time in over 30 years. I went to my mom’s house to do some work, and I stayed in my old room. I sat on the bed, looking around at the walls that used to be filled with ship models, posters, and the bric a brac of adolescence. Earlier in the day, I went to Lowes where I saw someone with whom I attended school. I recognized her but I’m sure she didn’t recognize me (hello LuAnn). I think back on the years I spent here and see there was much folly in my life. I was a kid back then; who could expect any different? They were years of growing up and becoming who I would be. And yet, I know many kids who are more advanced in their thinking than I ever was, and I know many adults who don’t move beyond the level of adolescence in their thoughts. We expect our kids to be full of folly, and we expect our adults to put that all aside. In this place, I was learning those lessons, and the learning still goes on. Thank God for that.