Stoop, Young Man
He mocks 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 liked books, so it was natural for them to visit in Mather’s extensive library, a collection of some 3,000 books. That would be a substantial library today; it was quite amazing for 1724.
Cotton Mather had been the target of a few barbs in the newspaper Franklin worked for, the Courant. Cotton demonstrated his high level of character by informing Benjamin that he held no animosity or resentment for the pointed remarks.
As they were walking out of the library Mather said to Franklin, “Stoop! Stoop!”
Franklin wasn’t sure what Mather meant so he kept on walking. But when he rapped his head on a low beam, he knew.
The preacher in Mather couldn’t let the teachable moment pass, so he said to Ben Franklin, “Let this be a caution to you not always to hold your head so high. Stoop young man, stoop - as you go through this world - and you’ll miss many hard thumps.”
The proud hold their head high. In their over-assessment of themselves, they move easily to assessing others, often in a negative light, even taking on a condescending, mocking tone. Their humor and their comments have a denigrating tone to them. Mockers hold themselves above other people, regarding them as not quite as sharp, insightful or humorous.
Sometimes it is hard to tell if the mocker is operating from a feeling of genuine superiority, or if he is compensating for low self-esteem. The bully on the playground who pushes little kids around is not tough; he is more afraid than most of the kids he pushes around. He has just learned how to use his size to advantage by intimidating others. Stand up to the bully one time and he’ll usually back down and leave you alone. The mocker is just a bully with words. He pushes and shoves verbally. Don’t engage him at his game. The best means of derailing the mocker is by staying calm in his presence. Sometimes the mocker can be reached simply by asking him/her, "Why do you do that to others?" If they are carrying around a lot of hurt in their hearts, they may be seeking attention in the only way they know how.
God usually has a way of humbling us when elevate ourselves over others and treat them in a condescending and humiliating manner. God mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble.
That is the lesson Cotton Mather was teaching Benjamin Franklin. “Stoop young man, stoop - as you go through this world - and you’ll miss many hard thumps.” In other words, don’t live with the pride of a mocker, be humble.
Years later Ben Franklin told Mather’s son, “This advice, thus beat into my head, has frequently been of use to me, and I often think of it when I see pride mortified and misfortunes brought upon people by carrying their heads too high.”
With all of his accomplishments and achievements on both sides of the Atlantic, Franklin knew the importance of keeping it all in proper perspective. As another proverb says, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2).
Life is full of low beams. Remember to stoop.