Proverbs 26:4-5 and The Best Way to Deal with Fools

mr_t_baEvery time I read Proverbs, I hear Mr. T in my head saying, “I pity the fool!” That probably says more about when I grew up than anything else, but this is actually one approach to dealing with those who are foolish in life, those who live in a reckless manner. Proverbs has a lot written about fools, but these two verses seem to get to the heart of the matter:

Don’t answer fools according to their folly, or you will become like them yourself. Answer fools according to their folly, or they will deem themselves wise.

While this may seem to be a contradiction, it is actually very insightful. Do not stoop to the level of a fool. If this person is thinking or acting nonsense, do not dignify it by arguing the merits of what s/he is thinking or doing. Do not validate the foolish ideas by actually debating them. If you do debate them or give credence to them by the way in which you interact, you become just as foolish.

Yet we cannot remain silent when confronted with idiocy. If we do that, the fool will think what s/he wants to do is good and wise. Rather, it is necessary to point out the folly, but without getting tangled up in it. It is enough to simply say that something is not wise without getting bogged down in debating it with the foolish one who proposed it.

Perhaps Mr. T had it right all along.


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