A few weeks ago, a business acquaintance called to discuss a challenge he was facing at work. As usual, I began with a few questions, trying to understand the context and the issues involved.
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It quickly became apparent that he didn’t want to change. In fact, the entire conversation was about why he couldn’t change, why he didn’t need to change, and why he wasn’t responsible for the results he was getting.
Ten minutes into the discussion, I realized I was dealing with a fool. There was no point in continuing the conversation. More talk would not change anything.
In Chapter 7 of his book, Necessary Endings, Dr. Henry Cloud deals with the difference between wise people and fools. It has given me clarity about something I have struggled with for years.
The difference between a wise person and a fool is not about:
- Position. Plenty of business leaders, pastors, and politicians are fools. Conversely, I have met wise executive assistants, gardeners, and even one shoe shine man.
- Intelligence. I know fools with masters degrees and Ph.Ds. Some of them teach in universities and have written books. Conversely, I know wise people who never graduated from high school and a few who can’t read.
- Talent. I know fools who are successful entrepreneurs, worship leaders, and television pundits. I know wise people with average talent and modest income.
According to King Solomon, there is one major thing that differentiates a wise person from a fool: how he or she receives instruction and correction. (See, for example, Proverbs 1:5; 9:8–9; 10:8; 12:15; 15:12; 17:10; and 19:20.)
A wise person:
- Listens without being defensive.
- Accepts responsibility without blame.
- Changes without delay.
If you are dealing with a wise person, talking is helpful. They soak up feedback and use it to adjust their lives for the better. Your input can truly make a difference.
If you are dealing with a fool, however, talking is a waste of your time. They resist change. The problem is never “in the room.” It’s always out there somewhere—something you can neither access nor address.
I have always wondered why some conversations never seem to go any where. Instead, I am left confused and frustrated. Now I know. This inevitably happens when you are talking with a fool.
By the way, this doesn’t mean that you have to write fools off. Instead, you have to change strategies. More talk won’t help a fool. Instead, you must:
- Stop talking.
- Provide limits.
- Give consequences.
If this topic interests you, I recommend you read Necessary Endings. Honestly, it is one of the best books I have read in the last year. Thanks to my friend, Robert Smith, for recommending it.
Question: Can you see this distinction in your own life and in the lives of those you interact with? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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The Foolish Death of John Proctor in The Crucible by Arthur Miller
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John Proctor's Death as Foolish in The Crucible
In Arthur Miller's The Crucible, John Proctor, a proud and frustrated farmer of Salem, chooses to die rather than to give a false confession to witchcraft. Many might view this act as that of a selfless martyr; on the other hand, it can more readily be seen as the height of human stupidity in the face of vanity and pride.
John Proctor is, at first, willing to offer up a false confession that his life may be spared. Inevitably, John Proctor possesses that fateful attribute known to fall fatal to many human beings - pride. While he has, indeed, been ashamed of his many sins throughout his life, Proctor's soul still clings to his pride and his good name, however soiled it may have…show more content…
This is his vanity, so chastened by his earlier resolutions lashing back at him. If Proctor had continued with his earlier resolve, he would most likely have accepted this humiliation along with everything else, declaring it another blot on his already black soul. As it happens, though, he proudly refuses to sign his confession,
Because it is my name! Because I cannot have another in my life! Because I lie and sign myself to lies!
Because I am not worth the dust on the feet of them that hang! How may I live without my name? I have given you my soul, leave me my name! (133)
Human pride has it's grasp on John Proctor once more; it demands one last shred of dignity to live for, a shred of dignity that it boldly refuses to live without, boldly and foolishly, foolishly because the loss of this life will throw others into turmoil. How important is a good name when children starve? How important, even to a Puritan, is his good name when his wife will be left with nothing? John Proctor here makes his decision to turn from the wisdom of saving his life and heads down the path of his own destruction.
Now John Proctor reverses his inner arguments between his sense and his pride. He begins to convince himself now that his vanity is more important than his life; that life is not worth living without a certain amount of pride and dignity.