Like a broken tooth or a lame foot
is reliance on the unfaithful in a time of trouble.
Like one who takes away a garment on a cold day,
or like vinegar poured on a wound,
is one who sings songs to a heavy heart. Proverbs 25:19-20
In light of this proverb, my aspirations for the day:
1) When you use me to bite down on an apple, I will not fall out of your mouth (metaphorically, at least).
2) When we need to get away from the bad guys, I will not turn up lame (I am working on not being lame).
3) When it is cold, I will not have left the coat I said I’d bring for you in the closet. (Sorry Gwen).
4) When you are wounded, I will not pour vinegar on your wound. (But then, why would anyone but a psychopath do this?)
But I might sing.
I love this proverb and I hate it. I guess that is what the Proverbs are all about — to get me thinking. The translation of this one even gets argues about which makes it even more interesting. Of course, it is hard to know how the language even worked in 700-400BC, or whenever the sayings were written. But there is an alternative version of pouring vinegar on a “wound” — some translators say it is pouring vinegar on “soda” and causing an irritating chemical reaction that neutralizes and spoils the soda. Regardless, it is a proverb about doing all the wrong things when someone is sad — like singing.
Honestly, Solomon seems kind of crabby, to me. If he’s like me, if I don’t want to be cheered up, nothing is good enough. So why blame someone for bothering you when everything bothers you? I know plenty of people who think everyone is lame like it is a conviction, like it is their declaration of independence from the pressure to be happy. You don’t need to take away their garment, they have already walked over in the rain without one on purpose.
So why should I feel bad about singing, just because misery loves company? (Let me slip in one of the most absurdly amusing renditions of misappropriated religion ever, here, in case you aren’t feeling too well. It might cheer you up: link ).
I choose to interpret this proverb as not against singing in some universal, anti-Jackson Five kind of way. It must be talking about singing just to be mean. It is against singing with a snaggle-toothed leer, singing like it is hiding your coat, singing like it is pouring salt in your wound. It must be talking about the time my sister was sick of traveling across Colorado from Amarillo and she wouldn’t stop singing a little song she had made up: “I long to see the beauty of the Colorado Springs.” The tune still is stuck in my mind and I still feel like killing her, since the car did not have air conditioning, either, and mom was conserving snacks.
So let’s make a promise to each other today: “I will not be that irritating, just because I am miserable, or because I am prone to being irritating.”
But go ahead and sing. If you fear someone will think you are like a bad tooth, I think it is OK to ask them, “If I sing you this song (link), will you think I am like a bad tooth?” They will let you know. Better to err on the side of singing, in my opinion.