“By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.”
It’s a core principle in life: You don’t get the relationships you want; you get the relationships you build. Everyone wants great relationships, but not everyone is willing to do the work necessary to build them.
When it comes to relationships, we often want more than we are willing to work for. Sometimes our desire for quality relationships is greater than our willingness to engage in the hard work necessary to build them. When this happens, our relationships fall short of their potential. Or worse, they become difficult and painful.
This proverb tells that a healthy home or business or team (the house) is built on strong, healthy relationships (the rooms), which in turn are the fruit of wisdom and understanding. Proverbs also teaches this: “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones” (Proverb 12.4).
This is a powerful message about relationships. When someone acts with “excellence,” they are “a crown” to the other person in the relationship. But when someone acts with “shame,” they are like “rottenness in the bones” to the other person in the relationship.
The word for “excellence” in Proverbs 12.4 is the Hebrew word hayil, which has a wide variety of meanings, including strength, might, power, wealth, army, ability, and virtue. As you can see, it is a very robust word that is rich in significance.
Hayil is used in Exodus 18.21: “You shall select out of all the people capable (hayil) men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens.”
The key message is that the Lord calls us to be hayil in our relationships. He calls us to be strong, virtuous, and skillful in the way we relate to other people. And the Lord puts a special emphasis on calling us to be hayil in marriage.
Keep in mind that hayil is something you must develop through the powerful combination of trusting God and doing the work of disciplined practice (musar). If you want strong, healthy relationships in your life, you must commit to the process of developing skill.
Examine yourself. Are you hayil in your marriage? Are you hayil in the way you parent your children? Are you hayil toward your parents? Are you hayil in your friendships? Are you hayil in your relationships at work? That is, are you virtuous, strong, and skillful in the way you interact with the people in your life?
Where are your gaps? What relationship skills do you need to build? Where do you need to get better? Resist the temptation to evaluate other people. Don’t evaluate your spouse or your children or your parents or your friends or your colleagues at work. Evaluate yourself.
Let me say it again: You don’t get the relationships you want, you get the relationships you build. Everyone wants great relationships, but not everyone is willing to do the work required to build them. When it comes to relationships, be careful of wishing for more than you are willing to work for. The grass is always greener where you water it.
It’s a consistent theme in Proverbs and all of Scripture. Trust God, do the work, and commit to building great relationships.