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Mishlei 19-01 (Innocence)

Key Concepts of Mishlei 19-01 (Innocence)
Innocence means being free of guilt. But there are many kinds of guilt and likewise there are many kinds of innocence.
The nature of guilt depends on the context, that is, who is judging it. For example, every person has his own instinctive moral and ethical standards. If he violates them he feels some measure of guilt. That feeling is intensified if the standards are conveyed to him by an external authority such as a parent or the Torah. The feeling is further intensified if he realizes that others are aware of his violation of those standards.
Because guilt is a painful feeling people tend to suppress it. They make an extra effort to keep the nature of their guilt hidden from others, especially from people they respect. Of course, nothing can be hidden from Hashem and that is the special challenge of a day like Yom Kippur.
Because guilt is so painful, a sense of innocence is clearly a blessing. A person in difficult financial straits may be strongly motivated to violate his ethical standards for personal gain. Mishlei strongly urges him to overcome that urge. His immediate reward for doing so will be the blessing of innocence, that is, the ability to look other people in the eye without worrying whether his offense is public knowledge.
Exploring Mishlei
(א) טוֹב רָשׁ הוֹלֵךְ בְּתֻמּוֹ מֵעִקֵּשׁ שְׂפָתָיו וְהוּא כְסִיל:
Better a poor man who goes [through life] in his innocence than [a person who] perverts his lips [with deceit], and he is a fool.
This proverb compares the person who goes through life in a blessed state of innocence with one who practices deceit and is therefore unable to avoid the feeling that he may be found out. The difference between guilt and innocence is so great that even if he is poverty-stricken ( רָשׁ ) he would do well to live at peace with himself by preserving his state of innocence.
In contrast, the person who uses deception and thereby perverts his lips ( עִקֵּשׁ שְׂפָתָיו ) to gain temporary advantage will have to live with his guilt. He will be paying a high price and is therefore a fool ( וְהוּא כְסִיל ) because his temporary benefit is not worth the pain of guilt.
Learning Mishlei
(א) טוֹב רָשׁ הוֹלֵךְ בְּתֻמּוֹ 
מֵעִקֵּשׁ שְׂפָתָיו וְהוּא כְסִיל:
Better a poor man  טוֹב רָשׁ who goes הוֹלֵךְ through life in his blessed innocence  בְּתֻמּוֹ than a person who perverts his lips  מֵעִקֵּשׁ שְׂפָתָיו with deceit, and he is a fool וְהוּא כְסִיל — for the benefit of deception is not worth the pain of guilt.
Additional Insights
(1) The alternative to poverty is not stated in the proverb, but there is a clear implication that even gaining a fortune does not justify the practice of deceit. ( הגר"א )
(2) The word כְסִיל (fool) may be understood as one who has the wisdom to know he is doing wrong but cannot resist his desire for material gain.( מלבים )
(3) The man who perverts his lips with deceit is a fool because he was acting in a way that he thought would bring him happiness, but he would have achieved far greater happiness if he kept his state of innocence. ( מצודות )
(4) The poor man who preserves his innocence stays true to the Torah wisdom he has acquired. In contrast the fool has lost the blessing of innocence, but has also corrupted Torah in his perverted attempt to justify himself.( רלב"ג )