I once did a DISC personality profiling assessment and one of the comments made about my type was that ‘I didn’t suffer fools gladly.’ I know now what I didn’t know then; that was a blight on my character. The person who cannot stomach fools will inevitably become one by virtue of their arrogance of response. Contending well with a fool takes wisdom.
The following couplet of proverbs explains well, the dilemma we have when encountering the fool:
Either way fools manage to make others look foolish or incompetent. They have a sadistically majestic way of routinely achieving the degradation of other human beings.“Do not answer fools according to their folly, or you yourself will be just like them... Answer fools according to their folly, or they will be wise in their own eyes” –Proverbs 26:4-5 (TNIV).
How do we contend?
On the one hand, our response to the loud, lazy, arrogant fool is to not respond, but he’ll corner us perhaps in some way through our inaction. When we do think about a wise response, he’ll find a way to reveal our thinking as inept. The fool thus thinks himself (or herself) rather intelligent. Unfortunately for him or her (and the rest of the population) he deludes himself, for real wisdom is something he’ll never touch (unless he repents).
Real wisdom is based in virtue, not vice. It has only good to share, not bad. It loves and does not hate, any time.
As a dog returns to its vomit, so does the fool to his silliness (v. 11 Msg); he seems destined to never learn right from wrong, and hence his life--of as much value as anyone else’s--is a rank waste. Some might use the term “oxygen thief” and think it apt (but personally I don’t like the term).
Verse 27 (Msg), however, says it all regarding fools and the rewards waiting for their behaviour. “Malice backfires; spite boomerangs.” And by virtue of the fact he or she can’t learn, their heart rages against God and all humanity for their own silliness (Proverbs 19:3). In this way, the fool’s destined to regurgitate his or her own stupidity. It is so predictable.
Proverbs 26 is a portrait of the fool. Isn’t it notable (and ironic) that this is positioned in the section of Proverbs that’s most conspicuously reserved for the character of royalty? Is this then part of the royal edification process: to learn about; to discern; to counter... the fool?
And so it is for us. If we’re seriously journeying on the path of virtuous moral wisdom, we need to study the nature and character of the fool. This is so we don’t enter foolishness ourselves, and so we can understand not only how to plan and react, protecting ourselves and others from the fallout, but also to learn to relate with them with wise compassion.
For in this is real wisdom, far higher than the selfish retort which comes from the lower reptilian/mammalian brain. Wisdom thinking is considered thinking from the neo-cortex.
When we can routinely feel compassion for the fool, yet not fall for his or her silliness, we can at last live in peaceable company with them, and their foolishness is finally found to be quite harmless.
“When the LORD takes pleasure in anyone’s way, he causes their enemies to make peace with them” –Proverbs 16:7 (TNIV).This is the best sign that Wisdom (in God) is winning the victory of hearts for us. When wise compassion is consistently and trustworthily applied in relationships with fools a harvest of peace is more likely to be reaped.
What does this wise compassion look like? It’s the wisdom from above:
“... the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness” –James 3:17-18 (TNIV).Peace and righteousness are so connected, like cause and effect (Psalm 85:10; Isaiah 9:7, 32:17; Romans 14:17 [with joy]; 2 Timothy 2:22; Hebrews 7:2, 12:11; and, of course, James 3:18).
Peace and righteousness in manifest wisdom--guided by God every step of the way--is the only way to effectively deal with foolishness.
Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved.