In our journey to become someone better than what we currently are, sometimes it’s helpful to consider those beliefs and actions that will NOT take us toward our goal. Like…Here’s what we’re NOT going to do! In our quest to grow in wisdom, let’s consider some of the characteristics that the book of Proverbs attributes to the foolish so that we can be sure to avoid these!
[To listen to the podcast version of this post, please click here.]
Characteristics of the Foolish According to Proverbs
The foolish person:
1. Lacks self-control,
He gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back (29:11)
I think this is one of the most hallmark characteristics of a foolish person. Whether in words, emotions, finances, habits, the Bible tells us that if we don’t learn to use restraint, we are acting like a fool. When something comes up in the day and I start to feel myself losing control, it is so helpful to remember that I need to practice self-control, a virtue of the wise.
2. Speaks careless words, often, and without thinking,
A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating. A fool’s mouth is his ruin (18:6-7)
There is a whole passage in James 3 about how difficult it is to tame the tongue, and we all know this to be true! Again, we must practice not speaking every careless thing that we think. Proverbs is so strong here when it says that the fool’s mouth is actually his ruin! I want to be sure to take care and give thought to the words I choose to speak.
3. Brings his parents sorrow,
A foolish son is a grief to his father and bitterness to his mother (17:25)
If you’ve lived for any real length of time, you’ve seen this play out. It’s not pleasant to observe to downtrodden expressions and demeanor of parents whose children are acting out foolishly. In the training years, children will certainly make foolish decisions at times, and we, as parents, have the responsibility to correct and guide. However, once children are all grown up and are still acting foolishly, there is not nearly as much that a parent can do. It hurts!
4. Despises instruction and correction,
A fool despises his father’s instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent (15:5) (See also 1:7)
And this may be the place that the foolish son or daughter begins: despising the instruction and correction of their parents. The Bible tells us that all discipline is painful, at first, but the wise push through the pain and learn something from the experience. The foolish do not; they continually buck at reproof and are merely waiting for their next opportunity to act out again.
5. Acts recklessly and ignores caution,
One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless (14:16)
It’s clear that a wise person will be in all ways be cautious. A fool, however, acts on impulses without considering consequences. This is the mode that their life is lived in. They abhor restraint of any kind.
6. Believes he is always right,
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice (12:15)
The Bible also tells us that there is safety in having many advisers. A fool doesn’t want advice; he wants to do things his way, always, no matter what others may say. He is puffed up and lives in a detached world of his own creation. This type of person is no fun to be around!
7. Doesn’t seek to understand,
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion (18:2)
A quick way to spot a fool is to look for the one who is always talking and never listening. They may pause as another person speaks, but rest assured, they are not listening to understand the other’s point of view. They are just waiting their turn to speak once again! It takes humility and self-control to be willing to listen to another with the intent of understanding them, and these are both virtues the fool does not possess!
8. Is easily offended and shows it,
Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult (12:16)
Facebook rants are the norm, these days. Someone is always offended by something, and it seems that discretion is a lost art. What a revelation to discover that we don’t always have to show our feelings! Especially when they are negative! And – even better – we can just refuse to be offended and actually overlook insults. What a great thing to be able to do!
9. Loves to fight,
It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling (20:3)
Again, this is made so obvious on social media. People love to fight with perfect strangers over differing opinions! What an utter waste of time and energy. Whether online or in person, a fool stirs up strife; he keeps things on edge, creating an atmosphere crackling with imminent conflict. How completely draining!
10. Takes pleasure in wrongdoing.
Doing wrong is fun for a fool, but living wisely brings pleasure to the sensible (10:23)
Like the mischievous toddler who enjoys pulling the cat’s tail over and over, a fool thinks it’s funny to do wrong. Most of us grow out of this phase, but not the fool. He delights in wickedness and refuses to consider the gravity of repeated wrongdoing; it’s how he has his fun. This is a sad way to live but, unfortunately, many do just that!
Run from Foolish Ways
So many of the ways of the fool are rooted in pride. It’s a proud heart that thinks he is always right, never seeks advice, refuses correction, is easily offended…and the Bible says that this is foolish. Humility and the fear of God is the foundation of a wise life.
If you’re like me, a few of these characteristics of the fool hit close to home; I still struggle to overlook offenses and exercise self-control. At times, I think we can all stray into foolish ways. We know, however, that to pursue a life of wisdom ultimately brings us the most joy and peace in this life.
It really is a journey that we are all on, and each day, we can grow in wisdom a little bit more by God’s help! How will you grow in wisdom today?