Committed to Folly - excerpt from FOOL

Mar 15, 2023 2:25 PM

What does it look like to be fully committed to folly?

See this excerpt from Chapter 11, “Committed to Folly."

The Hebrew word 'evil (eh-veel—no relation to the English word "evil," just coincidence). refers to the full-fledged fool, a person who is morally perverse and insolent. He or she is one who has decisively rejected wisdom and made a commitment to destructive ideas and behaviors. We have already seen a related term, 'ivveleth (ihv-vel-leth) in connection with the behavior of the self-confident fool. It is the primary Hebrew word for folly, sometimes translated "foolishness," and refers primarily to attitude and behavior. It is folly with a capital "F"….

The committed fool is what he does.

Though you crush a [committed] fool in a mortar

like grain with a pestle,

yet will his folly not depart from him.[i]

This is the outcome of the law of sowing and reaping in the life of the committed fool. Sow a thought, reap a deed; sow a deed, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a life.

There is a clear progression laid out in the book of Proverbs. The simple one, naively failing to use any judgement or discernment, follows his passions. Self-discipline and sound morality appear to him to be tough, unappealing, and unrewarding. It is easier to seek direct gratification of his ego and his senses. This inevitably leads him away from what he perceives as self-denial and toward a positive rejection of specific moral standards. Thus Proverbs 14:18 provides the forecast for his life: "The simple inherit folly," 'ivveleth, moral rebellion.

Eventually the simple one loses his gullibility—some would call it innocence, but there is nothing truly innocent about it. He crosses over from simpleness to becoming a self-confident fool, depicted in Proverbs as being absolutely enamored with 'ivveleth, full-fledged folly. It is something he seems inspired to achieve. He talks it, plans it, and eventually starts doing it.

At some point, he becomes committed to it. Just as the believer in Christ becomes a disciple of the Lord, the fool becomes a disciple of folly. It becomes his lifestyle, and it is his study. It grows until it is his love and passion. For the committed fool, the folly (whatever form it may take) becomes his folly, becomes ingrained into his character to the point that it is now an integral part of his personality. No longer is he merely morally deficient. He has become morally pernicious.

His rebellious attitude and behavior, then, is no longer merely a habit nor even a lifestyle, but his identity. He has become what he does. For this reason, one may forget about helping him reform his behavior. Whatever kind of godless folly he has favored is now inseparable, as it were, from the molecules of his body. To use a different metaphor, he is no longer merely running the software of rebellion; he has rebellion for his operating system.

Perhaps you think I am exaggerating. Perhaps you think even Solomon is overstating the case, or at least using hyperbole to make his point. Not this time. There is no overstatement here at all, but a straightforward observation of principle. To illustrate my point (and Solomon's), I return to some comments by John Douglas, whose work in criminal profiling was mentioned in the first chapter. He describes a conversation with a gambler he had arrested, which gave him a seminal insight into the criminal personality. The gambler told him, "You can't stop us, John, no matter what you do. It's what we are."[ii] In another passage Douglas refers to the work of behavioral psychologist Stanton Samenow who, "after years of firsthand research … concluded in his penetrating and insightful book, Inside the Criminal Mind, that 'criminals think differently from other people.' Criminal behavior, Samenow believes, is not so much a question of mental illness as character defect."[iii]

Remember the proverb that started this discussion to begin with: "Though you crush a fool in a mortar like grain with a pestle, yet will his folly not depart from him." Once again, it is important to divest the word "folly" (or "foolishness") of all our lighthearted associations with the comic and the ridiculous. Folly, as it is understood here, reaches to the uttermost depths of depravity in the crime of serial murder. At one point in his book, Douglas discusses the question of whether a serial killer can be rehabilitated.

It is not an abstract question. Douglas cites the case of a killer of two children, who was released from prison after serving only fifteen years of a twenty-five year sentence and proceeded to kill again. His argument, powerful both in its logic and indignation, is that to let such a person go free, one must assume one of two premises. Either he found prison to be "a wonderful, spiritually uplifting, eye-opening, and rehabilitative experience" that made him see the light and change his ways forever; or "prison life was so thoroughly punishing in every way, that despite his bad background and continuing desire to rape and kill children, he never wanted to be back in prison and resolved to do anything he could to avoid going back."[iv]

But if you don't accept either of these two premises, how … do you let someone like that out without considering the strong possibility that he's going to kill again?[v]

For the serial killer in particular, a line has been crossed (perhaps several lines in succession) and a radical commitment made, so that he (it is almost always a male) is going to relieve the pressures of his life and find satisfaction in taking the life of other human beings. His terrible, secret urges become his terrible, secret identity.

Before going any further, I want to make clear the purpose of this discussion is not to say that all committed fools are serial killers or that they will become serial killers. I am using this extreme example of the most horrible criminal behavior imaginable to point out a truth that applies to all forms of human iniquity across the board—that once a person has committed himself to moral rebellion, that form of wickedness becomes indelibly an element of his character. Only a radical change of identity could possibly eradicate it.

[i] Proverbs 27:22

[ii] John Douglas and Mark Olshaker, Mind Hunter (NY: Pocket Books, 1996), 58. Italics in the original text.

[iii] Ibid, 344. The emphasis is mine.

[iv] Ibid, 348.

[v] Ibid, 349.

Copyright © 2015 by Garry D. Nation.  All rights reserved.

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