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Stoop, Young Man

He mocks the proud mockers but gives grace to the humble. Proverbs 3:34

Benjamin Franklin was visiting the old Puritan preacher, Cotton Mather, in Boston. Cotton took a liking to the young printer even though he could be quite critical of established religion. Both men loved books, so it was only natural for them to visit Mather’s extensive library, a collection of some 3,000 books. It would be a substantial library today; that was pretty amazing for 1724.

Cotton Mather had been the target of a few snipes in the newspaper Franklin worked for, the Courant. Cotton demonstrated his high level of character by informing Benjamin that he had no animosity or resentment for pointed remarks.

As they exited the library, Mather said to Franklin, “Stoop! Stoop!”

Franklin wasn’t sure what Mather meant so he kept walking. But when he hit his head on a low beam, he knew.

Mather’s preacher could not pass up the teachable moment, so he said to Ben Franklin, “Let this be a warning to you not to hold your head so high always.” and you will miss many hard shots.”

Mockingbirds keep their heads held high. They always seem to evaluate others in a negative light. Their humor and their remarks have a denigrating tone. Mockers stand above others
people, seeing them as not quite as lively, insightful, or humorous.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the mocker is operating from a genuine sense of superiority or compensating for low self-esteem. The bully on the playground who shoves little kids around isn’t tough; he’s more scared than most of the kids he bumps into. He has just learned to use his height to his advantage by intimidating others. Stand up to the bully once and they’ll usually back off and leave you alone. The mockingbird is only a tyrant with his mouth. He pushes and shoves verbally. Don’t engage him in his game. The best way to derail the mockingbird is to remain calm in his presence.

God usually has a way of humiliating those who rise above others and treat them in a condescending and humiliating way. God mocks the proud scoffers but gives grace to the humble.

This is the lesson Cotton Mather taught Benjamin Franklin. “Bend down, young man, bend down – as you walk through this world – and you’ll miss a lot of hard knocks. In other words, don’t live with the pride of a scoffer, be humble.

Years later Ben Franklin said to Mather’s son, “This advice, thus sunk in my head, has often been useful to me, and I often think of it when I see the mortified pride and woes brought upon people by carrying the head too high.”

With all of his accomplishments and accomplishments on both sides of the Atlantic, Franklin knew the importance of keeping everything in proper perspective. As another wise saying goes, “With pride comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”

Life is full of crossfire. Don’t forget to lower yourself.

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