Transparency and Integrity


MONDAY MOTIVATION: The Fool And Their Folly (Proverbs 26:4-5)

By Oluwaseyi Santino

Proverbs 26:4 says,
'Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him.'

So what gives?
Do we remain silent when in the presence of a fool? Or do we speak when in the presence of a fool? Yes, we do! That is, sometimes we speak and sometimes we’re silent. Just as the CONTEXT determines the meaning of each verse, the CONTEXT determines how we respond in the presence of a fool.

When a person says something that reveals foolish thinking, the wise person will recognize the foolishness and avoid engagement in any meaningful way. But it’s not the FOOLISHNESS ITSELF that determines our response. It’s the ATTITUDE of the fool holding the viewpoint.

Remember, one of the characteristics of a fool is that they ignore wise counsel when they hear it. They think they understand when they don’t. So our words and arguments and logic are lost on the fool. Wisdom is like a foreign language to the fool. He/She doesn’t grasp it. He/She just doesn’t get it. So trying to reason with a fool is just, well…unreasonable. So we should abandon the hope that we’re going to get any traction with a fool. We aren’t. That’s what MAKES THEM a fool. They don’t listen to wise counsel.

But, Proverb 26:5 seems to suggest the opposite. It says,
'ANSWER a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.’

So why would we EVER ANSWER a fool according to his/her folly? We ANSWER A FOOL when the foolishness is not an ATTITUDE they possess, but a CONDITION THEY’RE IN. Even wise people are ignorant initially. The difference between the wise person and the foolish person is that the wise person LEARNS—so they are no longer ignorant. This is what the fool refuses to do. So the fool REMAINS IGNORANT.

Proverbs 26:5 addresses not the fool who is BENT ON FOOLISHNESS. But rather the fool who is simply ignorant of what they need to know. But they’re willing to find out from one who is wise. It’s in SUCH CASES that the wise person answers a fool. Even though they’re a fool at this point, there’s POTENTIAL that they will leave their foolish world and enter the wise world. The wise person can facilitate this process by answering this fool in a way that helps move him out of foolishdom into wisdom.

In fact, if we DON’T ANSWER THEM accordingly, we encourage them to remain in their sad state of foolishness. That’s because our SILENCE confirms to them that they are not foolish—when they actually are. A word of wise counsel can help them see the foolishness of their thinking.

They may not. They often don’t. But we can’t know their impact in advance. We can only share what we know to be true and wise. The rest is up to the fool himself. And if the fool chooses NOT TO HEED wise advice, it demonstrates that he remains a fool. Such a person is resistant to wisdom’s input. Which takes us back to Proverbs 26:4. Such a person we don’t waste our wisdom on. They aren’t interested. They will reject our counsel. They will remain a fool. And they will just make us look foolish too.

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