Él es mantequilla, runs an endearing Mexican expression. He’s soft as butter.
It’s a compliment, not a snarky reference to spineless niceness. Niceness has only a little to do with it, and occasionally nothing at all.
Mantequilla (‘butter’) is the gentle though principled capacity to yield, to discover the common cause, to negotiate both fruitfulness and warmth in a human relationship, to prefer the other over oneself.
Feel good when you hear it spoken of you.
Biblical wisdom knows this underrated human quality of congeniality. Because such wisdom is unfailingly comprehensive, it knows its opposite as well.
A brother offended is more formidable than a stronghold; Such strife is like the bars of a fortress. (Proverbs 18:19 JPS)
A brazen, loud culture has no time to consider the small tragedy of causing unnecessary offense. It believes its directness of speech is a self-attesting virtue, and it bangs on with its noisy bragging.
It builds a brother into a military adversary. The proverb metaphorizes the brother who might have loved long and loyally as a ‘stronghold’ (JPS), a ‘strong city’ (ESV), a ‘fortified city’ (NIV). We have turned him against us, made him our enemy.
The lost opportunity makes the bones ache.
Such ‘strife’—the needless, stupid, avoidable kind—is as impenetrable as ‘the bars of a fortress’.
Yet we feel we should be applauded for our ‘straight talk’ …
O Lord, save us from ourselves, from our blind, self-gratifying conceit.
No more needlessly offended brothers, their well-armed turrets that might have offered refuge now daring all comers.
Make us wise, make us mantequilla.
Postscript: If you are fortunate enough to become mantequilla, some will think you soft and spineless. In your strength, pay them no mind.