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.
Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase reads, "If you're dumb enough to call attention to yourself by offending people and making rude gestures, don't be surprised if someone bloodies your nose. Churned milk turns into butter; riled emotions turn into fist fights" (The Message).
There are natural consequences to our actions. The writer says, “STOP. Quit your foolish ways!” Saying and doing offensive things will bring forth violence and strife just as naturally as churning brings forth butter, or wringing the nose makes it bleed. The antidote for this type of disaster is in the first three lines: "Put your hand over your mouth." Many an altercation—some of which have had fatal consequences—could have been easily avoided by self-control. All of us should learn the wisdom of knowing when to refrain from speaking unwisely.
This proverb is an eloquent plea that our speech and actions be properly seasoned. “Walk in wisdom . . . making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:5-6).