Wise and Foolish

In my recent readings of Proverbs, a repeated idea kept jumping of the pages. Words like rebuke, correct, instruct, teach, and train kept popping up. To take these things to heart is called wisdom in the Bible.

When I came across some similar ideas in Henry Cloud’s excellent book, [amazon_link id=”0061777129″ target=”_blank” ]Necessary Endings[/amazon_link], they caught my eye.


Here are a few of traits Cloud gives for both the wise and foolish person:

Traits of the Wise Person:

  • When you give them feedback, they listen, take it in, and adjust their behavior accordingly.
  • When you give them feedback, they embrace it positively. They say things like, “Thank you for telling me that.”
  • They own their performance, problems, and issues and take responsibility for them without excuses or blame.
  • Your relationship is strengthened as a result of giving them feedback.
  • They show remorse. You get a feeling that they have genuine concern about whatever the issue is and truly want to do better.
  • In response to feedback, they go into future-oriented problem-solving mode. “I see this. How can I do better in the future?”

Knowing whether you are dealing with a wise person can help you decide if the time and effort in addressing issues will bear fruit.

Traits of Foolish Persons:

  • When given feedback, they are defensive and immediately come back at you with a reason why it is not their fault.
  • When a mistake is pointed out, they externalize the mistake and blame someone else.
  • The foolish person, attempts to talk about problems create conflict, alienation, or a breach in the relationship.
  • Sometimes, they immediately shift the blame to you, as they “shoot the messenger” and make it somehow your fault.
  •  They often use minimization, trying to in some way convince you that “It’s not that bad”
  • They rationalize, giving reasons why their performance was certainly understandable.
  •  Excuses are rampant, and they never take ownership of the issue.
  • They begin their response with “Well, you . . .” and get you off-topic by pointing out your flaws.
  • They have little or no awareness or concern for the pain or frustration that they are causing others or the mission.
  • They see themselves as the victim, and they see the people who confront them as persecutors for pointing out the problem.

Wow, read through that list again. We all respond foolishly at times, but is it a pattern of behavior?

It takes a deep understanding of grace and our brokenness to be willing to embrace feedback and grow as a result.

Here is a a great concluding thought by Cloud,

_”But for now, understand that this diagnostic is about one thing and one thing only: a person’s ability to take feedback and make the adjustment. With people who can respond to feedback, given that they have the gifts and abilities that you need in your context, there is always hope.”_

This would be a great exercise to do with your team. Look over the two lists. It can be a challenge both personally as well as helping guide organizational decision.

For more on this topic, I highly recommend [amazon_link id=”B012HU4MS6″ target=”_blank” ]Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses, and Relationships That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Move Forward[/amazon_link]  by Henry Cloud

 Photo credit: BenDaviesPhotography Snowy Owl via photopin (license)