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If you have been foolish, exalting yourself,
or if you have been devising evil,
put your hand on your mouth.
For pressing milk produces curds,
pressing the nose produces blood,
and pressing anger produces strife.
The surest mark of a fool is his boasting. He betrays his folly and his ego through exalting himself – exaggerating his deeds, putting himself above others, drawing attention to himself, delighting in the abasement of others. Such is folly and evil. The remedy for such boorish behavior is to stop speaking. It is better to be silent than to reveal one’s foolishness; it is better to hold one’s tongue than to use it to produce strife, which is the point of verse 33.
The effect of such speech is compared to the act of physical pressing. Such pressure on an object forces it into another mode. Pressing milk through a strainer produces curds. We may think such pressure, then, to be good, but the image of pressing the nose reminds us of the negative point.
Walk into a room where there is already some tension. Begin to boast. The result will be anger pressed into outward strife. There will be anger expressed against you, anger against others in the room, anger against whatever seems to be a cause for grievance.
In life, there is always an element of tension, however happy the occasion may be. We are sinners, and so there is always in us a readiness to be angry. Sin is all about us and has impacted us, and so there is always a cause to get angry. Anyone can mar a happy occasion, and the easiest manner is to exalt oneself as the expense of another. Someone will get offended. Someone will make a remark or express a facial disapproval. The boasting will press inner anger so that it comes out in strife. All the reason then to control one’s tongue. It is better not to be thought of at all, than to receive such attention that produces strife.