“The Opinions of the Fool”Categories: Bulletin Articles
Some proverbs are easier for us to handle than others. The grayer we get, the better we like Proverbs 16:31! Others, though, should make us pause for some sober self-examination. On this list, I would include Proverbs 18:2, which reads, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.”
It’s very easy for us to make this proverb about somebody else. There’s that know-it-all at work, that pompous bore on Facebook. Don’t they ever listen to themselves? Don’t they ever realize how clueless they sound? Don’t they ever shut up? Maybe we could figure out some discreet way of getting them to read this, and it would cure them!
Proverbs 18:2 is certainly strong medicine, but it’s supposed to be taken internally. God doesn’t mean for us to go around labeling others based on how insufferable they are: “They’re a fool, and they’re a fool, and they’re a fool, and. . .” Instead, He wants us to consider whether we’re seeing a fool when we look in the mirror.
To paraphrase the webcomic xkcd, someone is always wrong, and not just on the Internet. There are wrong people at work. There are wrong people in our neighborhood. There are wrong people at church. We can tell that they’re wrong because they don’t agree with us.
All too often, we respond to people like that by sticking our fingers in our ears and telling them the Truth at top volume. If we’re aren’t in the mood for confrontation, we check out of the conversation and count ceiling tiles while they blather on, secure in the knowledge that whatever they say, they will continue to be wrong.
Guess what doing that makes us. It makes us fools.
Here’s the thing. We might think they’re wrong, but they don’t think they are. They have some reason for saying what they’re saying. If we don’t want to end up on the wrong side of Proverbs 18:2, we need to give them an honest hearing. Yes, I know it’s out of fashion to listen to people we don’t agree with, but we ought to try it anyway.
First, even people who are so absurdly, ridiculously wrong that they disagree with us still can tell when we aren’t paying attention to them. They appreciate it when we hear them out respectfully, and they don’t appreciate it when we don’t listen. It costs us nothing to be courteous, and courtesy is worth a great deal.
Second, the better we understand them, the better equipped we are to help them understand us. We’re much more likely to be persuasive when we address their actual beliefs and arguments, rather than our pre-conceived caricature of those beliefs and arguments. There is no substitute for hearing a position explained by someone who endorses it.
Finally, and I hesitate even to bring this up, it’s always possible that in some disagreement, our position might be the one that’s, um, not-right. I know; I know—everyone who is reading this has got it all figured out. But what if we don’t? Hypothetically speaking, that insufferable, pompous bore on the other side may have a point, but if we don’t listen, we will never realize it. I’d rather be embarrassed for a little while and right thereafter than wrong forever.
Fools want to be right. The wise want to be wiser. The path we go down is entirely up to us.