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How do you deal with fools?

How do you deal with fools?

A previous post discussed the characteristics of fools. In this post I’d like to answer the question: “How do you deal with fools?”

The simple answer is you don’t! Proverbs says the best way to deal with fools is by not dealing with them at all:

Proverbs 14:7 Go from the presence of a foolish man, when you do not perceive in him the lips of knowledge.

When you recognize people are fools, it’s time to get away from them!

If you choose to hang around fools though, the Bible also lets you know what to expect:

Proverbs 13:20b The companion of fools will be destroyed.

What if you don’t want to be the “companion of fools” but you want to try to reason with a fool. In other words, what if you try to deal with a fool? The reality is you can’t, because it’s inevitably going to become an argument. Scripture is clear about the hostility you should expect dealing with fools:

Proverbs 12:16 A fool’s wrath is known at once.

Fools are quick tempered and often respond in anger. This is how miserable it is:

Proverbs 17:12 Better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs,than a fool in his folly.

A fool will hate what you have to say:

Proverbs 23:9 Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of your words.

You’ll be scorned if you try to rebuke a fool:

Proverbs 14:9a Fools mock at sin.

The clear instruction from Scripture is not to waste your time trying to deal with a fool; it is a futile, frustrating endeavor. You can’t talk any sense into a fool, and not to sound too simple, but this is what makes him a fool: he won’t listen. He won’t learn. He could experience terrible punishment and discipline, but he won’t change:

Proverbs 27:22 Though you grind a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his foolishness will not depart from him.

If fools would listen they’d cease being fools, but since they won’t it’s best to let them continue in their foolishness. What’s the problem with this though? If you’ve been around a fool it’s hard not to respond!

Proverbs 27:3 A stone is heavy and sand is weighty, but the provocation of a fool is heavier than both.

The difficult dilemma with fools…

You shouldn’t respond to a fool for the reasons mentioned, but you know if you don’t respond the person will remain a fool. The situation is described perfectly:

  • Proverbs 26:4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like him. You’ll “be like him” in two ways:
    1. It is so foolish to answer a fool you have to be a fool to do so.
    2. You won’t be able to help but look like a fool when you respond, hence the quote, “Don’t argue with a fool because onlookers won’t be able to tell the difference.”
  • Proverbs 26:5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes. You want to respond so he doesn’t continue to think he’s right and remain a fool.

There’s a verse saying not to answer a fool, and the verse immediately after that says the opposite? It looks like a contradiction unless you consider how well it captures the predicament you’re in with a fool:

  • You can’t answer a fool because of his foolishness.
  • You should answer a fool so he learns some wisdom.

Despite the strong urge to respond, DON’T! Unless you want the frustration the Bible clearly warns you’ll experience.

Have you dealt with a fool before? Requiring some humility, when have you acted like a fool? Share your answer(s) in the comment section below!

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23 thoughts on “How do you deal with fools?

  1. […] refining work in our lives and David had the opportunity to remove a terrible trial from his life. That trial was Saul, but removing Saul would’ve been removing the work God wanted to do through Saul. This […]

  2. […] A fool spurns discipline, but whoever heeds correction shows prudence—Proverbs 15:5 […]

  3. […] words are important, because they prevent Christians from looking arrogant, condescending, or hostile. When that happens, even though Christians are trying to defend their faith they actually make […]

  4. Thank you. I needed this. I work in an office of devout liberals that are anti-christian, pro-evolution, pro-global warming, rabid vegetarians, relentlessly pro-gay and pro abortion the whole nine. All they do is babble endlessly about how much they know and how stupid people like myself are.

    1. Hello Charlie,
      I’m glad the post encouraged you. That does sound very, very difficult.

      Do you have even one Christian – or conservative – friend there if you don’t mind me asking? I’ve found in situations like that if people can find even one like-minded person it can be a tremendous help.

      I’ll pray for your encouragement!

  5. Hello, thank you for this post. I really need help. I’m not being ugly, I am simply seeking true advice so that I may continue my walk with God. To come straight to the point, my husband fits every description of a …….uh,…..fool. Now don’t come at me…..this man has utterly destroyed me and everything about me. I have sought counsel, followed Gods Word to the letter, sacrificed everything…..and nothing works. He values only himself, he does not listen to wise counsel nor accepts advice. He has jeopardized our whole life for his selfish pursuits. He has a very charming personality so it’s very difficult for anyone to hold him accountable for his actions…..people want to rescue him…..listen, I just want to know how to go forward. I have seven kids, five are now grown. , I have two left at home. My dad helped me financially with the older kids, now he is gone. I have two left. I’m no longer at a stage in life where I can work and even if I could my husband would simply take advantage of it and destroy what I managed to salvage from the destruction he caused earlier plus he would dump all financial responsibility on me which I could in no way manage. He owns his own business, he’s a hard worker but he works for his own pursuits and brags about his abilities. He lives for praise and yes I have praised him, encouraged him, kept a quiet spirit. But he doesn’t value that….he expects it and takes advantage of it. This man tore down anything I ever built for him and our family. Listen, I could go on and on….the point is, how do I get through each day. It’s scarey, it’s lonely, it’s humiliating and it’s frustrating. I constantly go before God asking Him to reveal any unconfessed sin as I NEED God to help me….but God is quiet and my heart isn’t convicting me. How do I get this mans attention? He says he’s a Christian, he goes to church, he reads his bible but his actions are not Christian, he has no fruit, he is not a team player. He lives for himself, but he wants his family around him…..without the responsibility. God told me when I first met this man that he was my husband. God tells me now to love him. How do you love someone who destroys you…who persecuted you, who shattered your heart a broke every dream? How do you love someone like that? And how do you not worry and become anxious? How do you trust God in a situation like this? How do you let go and stand on Gods Word? How do you do that? How do I keep from being bitter? How do I let go of the pain when it faces me every day? Don’t tell me to leave….for out of exhaustive measures that’s what Godly counsel advised me to do….and I’m the one that lost EVERYTHING! I mean every single thing….even my relationship with God which I valued highly….so much so that I named my kids after biblical characters and stenciled scripture on my walls…..tastefully…..and I lost the trust and relationship with my children which I adored, fought for, sacrificed for….I lost EVERYTHING. So where do I go from here? How does God want me to respond to this guy….this guy that God loves and understands…..what do I do? Thanx….blessings!

    1. By the way, I should mention to you that not long after we were married, it was God that told my husband that He would take his heart of stone and turn it into a heart of flesh…..that was 30 years ago.

      1. I assume you’re telling me your husband became a Christian, correct? If so, then pray for two evidences that should accompany conversion: fruit and repentance.

    2. Hello Tina,
      First, I think I’d encourage you to recognize that you probably haven’t done exactly what you’ve said: “followed God’s Word to the letter and sacrificed everything.” So far, there’s only been one Person in history who’s done that. We generally have higher esteems of ourselves than we should. So while I don’t doubt that your husband is a difficult man, hopefully thinking of your own weaknesses will give you more grace for him.

      Also, you said he “has utterly destroyed me.” While I believe he’s hurt you and you’ve experienced loss, I’m sure there are still many things in your life to be thankful for, and I’d encourage you to think on those things.

      I think it’s great you’re continually going to God in prayer, not just for strength, but also to be shown your sins and areas requiring your repentance. I’m sure you’re also praying for the grace to endure what God allows in your life.

      There are a number of variables I’m unfamiliar with. You said he’s a Christian and he goes to church. What’s your relationship like with your pastor? Does your husband have any godly men in his life? While I can attempt to respond to your post here, your situation clearly requires more counseling. Have you been to one of the elders in your church?

      When you say, “God tells me to love him” what do you mean exactly? Do you mean you hear a voice or you believe that’s what God says to you through His Word? Although husbands are commanded to love their wives, the command given repeatedly in Scripture to wives is to respect their husbands and submit to them. While I’m sure it’s difficult, do you feel like you’re attempting to obey God in that area?

      How do you not worry and become anxious? While I’m sure it’s tough, that has to come – not from your husband – but your relationship with the Lord, trusting He is sovereign and He will protect you like He protected Sarah when Abraham made foolish decisions.

      You said, “How do you trust God in a situation like this?” I’d say you have even more reason TO trust God. Who else can you trust?

      No, I wouldn’t tell you to leave, and you shouldn’t. You committed to this man for life.

      Again, I would say I believe what you need goes beyond the communication here. Please reach out to an elder in your church. I will pray for your and your husband!

      1. Thank you so much! Yes, I have been to church elders, his friends, people who have international
        ministries….and know us….they have done all they can….or feel they can. My husband will hear them but will not put into action what he is advised. One thing my husband tells everyone is that I taught all our children to respect him. Yes, I give him respect which is difficult when he is so changeable, not solid, difficult to follow. Here’s an example, when we went for counseling, the counselor gave him $20. to take me out. He refused until 9:00 p.m. the night before we were to meet with them. I couldn’t go due to lack of babysitter and pure exhaustion. He told me literally 10 minutes before he wanted to take me. One minute he’s this way, the next that…..fruit? There are none. And I’m not kidding. One counselor told me people would know us by our fruit….what I have done, what he has done….I cannot see any…and I do so much want to …I do not want to see him suffer a horrible eternity. He owns his own business, to which he owes tremendous taxes…debts….I begged our church to not encourage him to have his own business….but he’s a man…they did….and we suffered greatly. I’m wanting to be a help mate….but I just don’t know how….sir, I have gone to the church as well as his friends for help and advice…..when the kids were young and needed some type of care…..he would at that time see to his own needs….and I would be reprimanded by dentists and doctors….his one friend finally convinced him to allow me to take his son to the dentist for a cavity. I’m not on the checking account and all businesses I built he tore down….listen, I’m not making this up…..I finally hit a brick wall from pure exhaustion and my mind broke. I’m now getting back on my feet and my husband has even said he sees the progress I’ve made which is a miracle that he admits it. I’m not here today to belabor this….I want to know how to honor God as well as my husband in this situation. Yes, I’m aware that I’m a sinner and imperfect. I constantly seek God as I want victory in both our lives. I want God to win…not Satan….and not my own comfort. I want both of us to be a testimony to a lost and dying world…..for I’m simply a grain of sand on the beach so to speak but I want to be Gods grain of sand…..Thank you

        1. Well Tina, based on what you said I think what you should probably be praying for is his salvation. Everything you’re saying makes it sound like he’s not saved, and until he’s saved I wouldn’t expect any changes.

          I appreciate your desire to honor God, and it seems like you’re very sincere. Based on all you’re saying, I think you need to pray that God will open your husband’s heart to the Gospel. Until he’s converted, he’ll remain the same, as is the case with all of us when we’re unsaved.

          1. Ok,I will do that. I now have direction. Pray for him, too. And I will pray for you, your family and your ministry. Thank you.

          2. Thank you very much for the prayers Tina, I truly appreciate it!

            I will pray again for his salvation assuming he’s not saved, and if he is saved that there will be repentance and fruit!

  6. Scott you have a very entertaining way of having approached the subject of dealing with a fool. My husband and I got quite a kick out of, “Despite the strong urge, DON’T!!” Hahaha…. Thank you for your insight in such a humorous way!

    1. Thanks Mary :).

      Just curious – and I’m not asking for names – are you and/or your husband dealing with fool and searched this out?

  7. […] How should we deal with a fool? Find the answer here! […]

  8. […] When a fool provokes you, it’s very hard not to respond. I wrote about this in a recent post: “How to Deal with a Fool.” […]

  9. I love the clarity of this series! Would you then advise that a way to pray for a loved one demonstrating foolish behavior would be that they become teachable? Any other advice?

    1. Hi Dawn,
      Yes, it would seem Scripturally that since you shouldn’t talk to the person you’re really relegated to only praying. If the Lord opens the door for the person so approach you, ask you questions, then it would be good to engage.

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