“An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.”
While this proverb focuses on wives, it communicates a principle that applies to all relationships. It is common sense: How people act in a relationship has a profound impact on the other people in the relationship. This is true personally and professionally; it is true in a marriage, a family, or a friendship; it is true on a team; it is true in a business; it is true in a church; it is true in society.
It is also a core principle of E+R=O. Your attitude and behavior have a profound impact on the people around you. Your R is an E for others.
The proverb quoted above says it simply: 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 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 Psalm 60.12: “Through God we shall do valiantly (hayil); it is he who will tread down our adversaries.”
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.”
Hayil is used in Psalm 18.39: “For you equipped me with strength (hayil) for the battle; you made those who rise against me sink under me.”
The key message in Proverbs 12.4 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. Again, it is a core principle of The R Factor. 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.
So examine yourself. Are you hayil in your marriage? That is, are you virtuous, strong, and skillful in the way you interact with your spouse? 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?
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.
It’s a consistent theme in Proverbs. Trust God, do the work … and build great relationships.