The Mindset of the Committed Fool - excerpt from FOOL

Mar 17, 2023 10:38 AM

What are the marks of the Committed Fool’s mindset? Read this excerpt from Chapter 13, “The Fool vs. Wisdom."

The first characteristic of the committed fool’s mindset is that his mind is closed. Consider again:

He who answers a matter before he hears it,

it is his folly and shame.[i]

The virtuous are often accused of closed-mindedness. The reality is that no one is more prejudiced, more bigoted, more difficult to persuade than the committed fool.

Snap judgments and hasty replies are identified with both folly and shame. By the way, the word for “shame” here[ii] is a very strong term for utter disgrace and loss of honor. The point is not that everyone who does this is a fool, but that this is the characteristic behavior of the fool. This is the way the fool is, and if you want to do this, you are acting as disgracefully as a fool.

Second, the committed fool’s ethics are egotistical.

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,

but he who listens to counsel is wise.[iii]

The committed fool considers himself competent both to construct his own standard of right and wrong and to evaluate it by his own subjective intellect, experience, and feelings.

The phrase “wise in his own eyes” is significant and appears a handful of times in Proverbs (including references to the self-confident fool, the sluggard, and the rich man), once in Isaiah (5:21), and even in Romans (11:25, 12:16); but the key passage for background is this one:

Do not be wise in your own eyes.

Fear the Lord and depart from evil.[iv]

To be wise in one’s own eyes is the opposite of fearing God and departing from evil.

The wise individual does not rely on his own subjective wisdom to guide his life, but has checkpoints outside himself to verify the rightness of his actions. He will check himself by the Word of God, but he will also check himself by others whose judgment he trusts to make sure he is interpreting God’s Word and will correctly.

Meanwhile the fool who is, by definition, devoid of moral wisdom, believes himself to be inherently competent to direct his own life independent of all other counsel. If he refers to the Bible or to others at all, it will be to justify the course he has already decided to take. Here then is the paradox of wisdom: Those who have it do not presume to think their own wisdom is enough, while those who do not have it imagine that they have more wisdom than all of mankind before them.

Third, the committed fool is shameless about his deeds.

Every prudent person acts out of knowledge,

but a fool lays open his folly.[v]

At first glance, Proverb 13:16 looks like a version of “actions speak louder than words." Yes, but there is more to it than that. There is a word picture here of a merchant or vendor unrolling and spreading out a cloth in which he has wrapped his goods. He opens the bundle in the marketplace for display. This is what the fool does with his behavior and attitudes. Anyone with good sense, if he were going to practice such things, would want to keep them to himself. Not the fool. He is proud of it.

In other words, the fool’s ego demands that at some point he parade his character deficiency before the public eye. If he was ever ashamed of his motives, plans, and deeds, he is so no longer. He is unworthily, shamelessly proud of them and makes trophies of his “conquests.”

His egotism and exhibitionism also give him away when it comes to matters of religion and faith. Whether he is a religious pretender or openly irreligious, this statement holds true:

Fools mock at making a sin offering,

but goodwill is found among the upright.[vi]

This verse is more ambiguous in Hebrew than it appears to be in translation—it is possible to read it two ways. You can read it as is rendered above, that the committed fool scoffs at religious observance. You can also read it the other way around, so that the sin offering mocks him, that it is ludicrous for him to participate in public worship and displays of faith and devotion.

It is as though Solomon were saying that if the fool refuses to be ashamed of his own deeds, then the very sacrifice he brings to the altar will be ashamed for him. Either way the verse is interpreted, it speaks of the bold irreverence of the committed fool. He cares nothing about his moral guilt, so why should he have anything but disdain for having to account to either God or man for his immoral values and actions?

The fourth thing about the committed fool’s mindset is that he is belligerent and contentious.

It is an honor for a man to cease from strife,

but every fool is quick to quarrel.

If a wise man contends with a foolish man,

whether he rage or laugh, there is no peace.[vii]

One should always count the cost before one crosses this person, for there will be a price to pay. He will not let a good fight pass him by.

It is not possible to reason with the committed fool, particularly in a dispute. If he cannot win his point, he will not lose the fight—and he fights dirty, whether in private discourse or public debate. He will not listen to reasonable arguments, even if he has to laugh them off or storm against the one bringing them. If he sees that the argument is lost, he will turn against his opponent with invective, name-calling, perhaps even brute force.

It is also worth noting, even in passing, that the word “honor” appears here as something that the fool does not have. Shame is associated with the committed fool, and when he is placed near those who have honor, it only highlights his deficiency. Proverbs 19:11 sharpens the contrast further, highlighting forbearance as a quality of wisdom.

The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger,

and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.

A committed fool simply cannot see it that way. Anger to him is both a natural right and a powerful tool for accomplishing his will. The fool's glory is to make everyone who offends him pay dearly for the offense.

[i] Proverbs 18:13

[ii] Heb. kalimoth (ka-lee-mohth)

[iii] Proverbs 12:15

[iv] Proverbs 3:7

[v] Proverbs 13:16

[vi] Proverbs 14:9

[vii] Proverbs 20:3; 29:9

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

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