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:
- It is so foolish to answer a fool you have to be a fool to do so.
- 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!