Fools: A Lose/Lose Interaction

Proverb for Today

Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you also be like unto him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit. (Proverbs 26:4-5, MEV)


Have you ever had to make a lose/lose deal?

Your offer is rejected, you reject the other person’s offer, so the two of you compromise, neither person getting what they actually wanted. You’re both frustrated, and have a bittersweet aftertaste of how the deal went. Let’s be real. It wasn’t a deal at all. You both lost.

The same type of exchange can happen relationally. Dealing with fools is impossible; something our passage today illustrates.

I’ll never forget my time as a junior high teacher. Every now and then, I’d have a student try to create a distraction in class. I knew as soon as their hand shot up, something was up.

I’d acknowledge them, and they’d fire away with their question—a ridiculous question. Here’s the battle that plays out in almost every teacher’s mind at this moment:

  1. To answer them would distract from the objective of the lesson, derailing the momentum of our whole class period, effectively wasting everything we’ve done, giving the student a win.
  2. To ignore their question, or give no answer, gives them a sense of accomplishment, the feeling that they’ve stumped or frustrated the teacher, and giving the student a win.

From the teacher’s perspective, it’s completely lose/lose. (Pro tip: just tell the student you’ll answer their question one-on-one after class. They don’t get to try to embarrass you in front of their peers, and you don’t lose any momentum in your lesson.)

Some people, who Proverbs describes as “fools,” could be described as perpetual junior high-ers. In coming to you with a question, they don’t seek an answer. They don’t want to learn. They have no desire to grow. They want to derail you completely, or shift your focus off of your goal.

Dealing with these people, unfortunately, is a lose/lose. Love them. Be kinds towards them. But be very guarded about interacting with them. Sometimes the best thing you can do is remain a little more distant until they wise up.


Reflect and Respond

    • How do you respond when someone comes to you trying to stop your momentum or distract you? Do you allow them to distract you? Or are you able to protect your goal and focus?
    • What can you do to help someone see when they’re playing the fool like our passage described?
    • How can you avoid being the fool as described in our passage today? What do you need to do to ensure you don’t derail or distract someone from their goals?
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