Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. Proverbs 27, verse 6.
Who would you rather have do you in: someone you trust or someone you don’t? I’ll admit, I’m on the fence about this one. Part of me would want someone I know and cherish to break bad news to me, or to administer hurt when hurt is needed for healing. And yet another part of me thinks that a real friend wouldn’t want to hurt you, even if it is ‘for your own good.’ I don’t really want anyone other than God telling me what is for my own good; I’m a grown man and I can figure it out on my own.
But that’s not really the case here, is it? That isn’t what the verse is talking about. After all, a friend will be square with you, will tell you the truth. They may tell you truths that hurt, and they may even do things that will hurt you. But when a friend has been honest with you and yet you’ve been hurt by it, you can generally trust that they did so with good intentions, taking your interests into mind.
Contrast that with the friend who will flatter you with kisses, or butter you up with kindness, then leave you high and dry. There really are people in the world who will use us. I like to think most of them are people just like me or you: good folks who make bad choices because you and I do that too. But the sad fact is that there really are some people who are so hurting, confused, selfish, or whatever that they will deliberately use you for their own ends, then walk away to declare themselves happy and at peace.
Thus, I read today’s verse to be another commentary, another Solomonic observation about a truth in life. It hurts to get hurt by a friend, but it generally won’t destroy your soul. It hurts to be hurt by an enemy who you thought was your friend, and such things are a direct assault on your soul. They assault your sense of right and wrong; they assault love in your life. Faith and forgiveness are the antidotes to such attacks, but all too often the worries of the world muddle our ability to forgive and we instead continue to hurt. That’s what the attacker wants: to have us hurting, make us feel as bad as they do. That isn’t love, and it isn’t a wound from a friend.
You know that “a kiss of death” is a popular colloquialism traced back to how Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss. Kissing is intimate, personal, and you don’t let someone kiss you unless you trust them to be in your most personal space. I think that’s the kind of kiss the verse is talking about. Flattery, building up, lies: they are the kisses of an enemy who wants something from you. We let them get in close, thinking they are attractive and love us, then ZAP! They kiss you, they bite, and they retreat in cowardice to fight in another way, another day, another small petty victory under their belt. They are like black widow spiders, spindly but powerfully beautiful and enchanting…until they bite and poison you. If they mate with you, you might just end up dead.
Last night I killed a rattlesnake. I know they are here in North Texas, but I had never seen one here until last night, when I found a small one resting on the warm concrete next to my garage door. After brushing it away with a broom, I smashed its head with a sledge and my boot, then took pictures to send to my daughters (who hate snakes). Naturally, my son thought it was too cool. At first, I didn’t recognize what kind of snake it was. I actually thought of just picking it up and throwing it out into the adjacent field BEFORE killing it. Yeah, I know: stupid idea.
Fortunately I thought better of the idea before following through with it. It was only a baby snake, but the venom would have been just as powerful had it snapped around to bite me. This morning, in the sunlight, I looked at the dead snake and thought it was actually a beautiful creature. Sleek, smooth, attractive in the way it could blend in. It’s an enemy that could sneak up on you, prey on you, tempt you until it got in close enough to bite and poison you. I think it’s no coincidence that Satan, in Eden, took the form of a snake, tempting Adam and Eve with kisses of doubt and knowledge until it could wheel around and bite them with the stinging lure of sin. Today I’m thanking God for the ability to fore-think a bad idea. It’s a good lesson to have learned.
When you’ve battled with a friend, you’ve battled over common beliefs, something shared. And, yes, sometimes that hurts. But at least it’s done out of love by someone who cares for you. If something isn’t done from love, there aren’t many alternatives as to what the motivation really is. When that is the case, maybe we should ask ourselves why we would want that in the first place. That’s not something I need to be on the fence to decide.