Dealing with foolish people
I love the book of Proverbs! For almost 20 years I’ve been reading a chapter a day, gleaning truth and learning to live wisely. But sometimes I hit a verse or two that really trip me up. For example,
“Don’t answer a fool according to his foolishness or you’ll be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his foolishness, or he’ll become wise in your own eyes.” –Proverbs 26:4-5
Confusing, right? Don’t answer a fool, or do – how do we know when we should speak up and when we should be quiet?
Over the years I’ve spent a great deal of time considering these verses and seeking clarity about how to apply them when I am dealing with foolish people in my life. Do I answer or not when someone is speaking foolishly?
In order to make that determination, I’ve found I need to consider two big factors: my own heart and the other person’s posture.
Evaluating my heart means honestly examining my motives for speaking. Do I want to be right or do I want to be righteous? What is motivating me to want to speak into the conversation?
But also, I have learned how important it is to consider the posture of the other person. Is he or she argumentative or merely inquisitive? Are their words coming from a place of pride or humility?
When making the decision about speaking or not speaking, I’ve found it is best to speak only when my heart is focused on encouragement and the other person is speaking from a place of inquiry or humility. Otherwise, my words will usually only exacerbate the situation and potentially create conflict.
Let’s face it: we will all have to deal with foolish people. And sometimes we will need to respond to them. When those times come, it’s vital that we approach the situation with grace, humility and a desire to see Christ exalted. Sometimes that will lead us to speak truth into a situation, and other times it will require us to hold back. The key to knowing which response is appropriate is learning to listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
But no matter what, let’s be followers of Christ who point to Him in all ways.