The Primary DIfference Between the Wise and Foolish

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.

A Jester’s Hat - Photo courtesy of ©, Image #7888135

Photo courtesy of ©

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:

  1. Listens without being defensive.
  2. Accepts responsibility without blame.
  3. 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:

  1. Stop talking.
  2. Provide limits.
  3. 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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  • Jon Stolpe

    I think of my response early in our marriage.  I always wanted to be right.  I wanted to have the last word.  I never wanted to listen.  I never wanted to be corrected.

    Thankfully, I quickly learned that this was a foolish approach.  In James 1, it talks about being slow to speak, slow to become angry, and quick to listen.  These are actions of the wise.  Once I learned the importance of these three actions, our marriage quickly took off and my wisdom increased.

    Good advice for the day, and the book looks like a winner also.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I remember hearing Dr. Phil say to a foolish husband who kept defending himself, “You can either be right or you can be happy.”

      I love that passage in James 1. I used to pray that in the corporate world whenever I went into a meeting. Thanks.

      • Kari Scare

        My pastor often says, “You can be right, or you can have relationship.” My teenager is catching in to this idea now too!

        • Daren Sirbough

          This is very true when working with difficult Volunteers. I wonder how many times I was the difficult volunteer and someone chose to have relationship with me.

          • Kari Scare

            And also often true in other relationships like a marriage or friendship. Often, being right really isn’t important and also is simply a matter or opinion or preference rather than right or wrong.

          • Anonymous

            Kari, one of God’s great gifts to me was helping me to understand that two people can have drastically opposing viewpoints without either being wrong. 

            Thanks for the reminder.

          • Kari Scare

            I am eith you on that one. So thankful for that gift! Now, I just have to keep reminding myself of that truth. My flesh is forgetful when it’s emotional.

          • Anonymous

            So true!  You and me, both!

          • Craig Morton

            As well, being right or pushing to be right implies that you are trying to win.  Like you said Joseph, 2 people can have big differences without being wrong and not matter how hard you push to make you “right”, you’re just chasing your tail (or ego).  Thanks

          • Anonymous

            That’s it, exactly, Craig!  Unfortunately, when caught in the moment, it’s difficult to recognize.  Best when caught early and avoided.

      • Aaron Householder

        I’ve learned that “I can be right & still lose” when it comes to disagreements within relationships. It forces me to ask, “What’s the higher value?”

      • Tim Peters

        Michael that is a great quote.  

  • Adam Bradley

    This is a great article. I watched a talk by Dr Cloud at last years Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit and have not stopped talking about the impact it had on my way of relating to people!

    Thanks for the post.


    • Michael Hyatt

      I saw him at that same Summit. For some reason, it didn’t connect then. But it sure does now!

  • Joe Abraham

    Yes, it is important to learn how to differentiate between the foolish and the wise. Otherwise we either waste our time (for the foolish) or miss a mentoring opportunity (for the wise). I did waste many hours for the former assuming that they will at last ‘get it’. Now as people approach me for consultation, I analyse them and within a short time into the conversation, I will know which side they stand. If they are on the wise side, I invite them for further discussion. If not, I tell them of my inability to help them!

    Thanks Michael for speaking the truth though it sounds rough on a few lines!

    • Michael Hyatt

      That’s how I am approaching it too, Joe. If they are not wise, I can’t help them.

    • Kelly Combs

      What some people think is “rough” or harsh, I think is healthy! Keep doing it, and you will feel healthy too!

      • Joe Abraham

        I agree with that, Kelly. When the truth is said in love as Michael did, it is healthy. Thanks.

    • Daren Sirbough

      I really like this. I am heading into much more pastoring with Young Adults and I’d like to spend my time wisely with people who are teachable.

      • Joe Abraham

        That’s the key, Daren.

  • Michael Nichols

    Great reminders – Listen without defense and Respond without blame. Thanks! I agree – Necessary Endings is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Michael

    • Tim Peters

      I am definitely working on listening without being defensive.  If you have any pointers, pass them along!

      • Anonymous

        Pretending you are mute helps!

  • Patricia Zell

    I think one other distinction between wisdom and foolishness lies in the area of perspective. A wise person is one who makes love his/her focus in life. If we love, we look for ways to be kind and the very act of looking opens the door for change. I also would not give up on people who are caught in foolishness–I’d be praying for God to minister to those people to work out things for their good and to bring them into wisdom.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I agree: you don’t have to give up on them. But my strategy in the past was to keep talking. Now I see that is a waste of time. I have to change strategies. Thanks, Patricia.

      • Patricia Zell

        And, I agree with you–sometimes the person isn’t ready to hear what you have to say, so it’s best to wrap it up. Thank goodness, God always hears us when we pray for His goodness for our neighbors. (By the way, a lot of times foolishness comes from immaturity–I know this from my own experiences…)

  • Paul Coughlin

    Insightful post Michael, but surprisingly it also niggled me a little too!

    I asked myself why – and realise, that it came across to me as a bit of a black and white approach – labelling someone as a wise or foolish person depending on their behaviour in the moment – that seems a little restrictive to me. Of course, we are neither one nor the other as a person, but can behave as either at different times.

    If we are under stress, if there is a lot hanging on the outcome, if we do not clearly see that we are biased towards (attached to) a particular outcome – then we are more likely to think less reflectively. The more stressed we become, the less reflective our thinking becomes; and the less we are able to take on new information, and consequently the more foolish our resulting conclusions and actions can become.

    If we can recognise that we are thinking in a less than optimal way – either through feedback, or learning to recognise the signs (rigid opinions (black and white/all or nothing), emotionally charged, less reflective thinking), then we can self-manage our way back into wiser thinking. Slowing down, being open to other perspectives etc.

    How we think and behave, is simply our thinking and behaviour – which can change radically depending on the situation and what is at stake. It is not who we are. We can change our behaviour quite quickly by learning to consciously change our thinking, and our perspective.We have all thought and acted foolishly at times, and wisely at times. I for one would not like to be written off as a fool, perhaps because my relationship at home was strained and was impacting my ability to think clearly and focus at work..

    Saying all of this, I also agree, that some people have a very strong and independent thinking style – and they like to be that way. The trick then, is realising there are times when that is not appropriate, and times when it is very valuable. The trick is knowing which time this is..  :-)

    Love the stimulation your posts create in my own thinking Michael,
    Many thanks,

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Paul. I actually agree. Another distinction: sometimes we are wise in some areas of our life but foolish in others. 

      I don’t want to use these labels to write people off but to help them. The only point being that more talk won’t help a fool or someone who is acting foolish. 


      • Paul Coughlin

        Thanks Michael.  Yes, great distinction too.

        I understand your intention for sure – and your reply prompted another thought..

        Maybe more talking won’t help – but maybe a skilful question – one which prompts the fool to reflect momentarily on their own approach.. one which gets them to ask themselves if there might be a better approach

        For example, ‘certainty’ is often what we desire in our mind – maybe a question about what kind of certainty is better – the certainty which we already have, or certainty based on a wider perspective, taking into account factors we may not be ware of..

        Great conversation. Thanks.

        • Cheri Gregory

          A careful question can be such a gift. It can be a gentle way to hand responsibility back to the “fool” and point him/her in the direction of wisdom.

    • Cheri Gregory

      Paul —

      I appreciate your comment “How we think and behave, is simply our thinking and behaviour – which can change radically depending on the situation and what is at stake. It is not who we are. ”

      I know many who believe that current behavior = true self. End of story. But I’d sure hate to be forever judged by my worst moment.

    • Anonymous

      Paul, adding to what you have written, sometimes simply time of day can make a big difference.

      I have learned, for myself, that I just don’t do well with in-depth discussions late at night.  I’m tired, not thinking optimally, and am much more likely to become defensive or angry.  It is simply much more difficult for me to objectively consider another viewpoint when I am tired.

      So, I’ve learned to ask myself, “Is there a good chance I’ll see this differently by morning?”  If so, then I ask to sleep on it and discuss it in the morning.

  • Chris Patton

    Recently, I was able to talk at length with Jim Reese (CEO, Atlanta Mission) about integrating faith and work.  He recommended Necessary Endings and the advice about dealing with the fool.

    His advice was that to make the effort to rid your company of “foolish” employees.  Obviously, as you and Paul discussed, we are not to do this based on one conversation or situation, but based on observed behavior over a period of time.  This kind of employee refuses to take responsibility or to learn from anyone.

    I quickly ordered the book and cannot wait to read it!  (I do not want to be a fool, either!

    I am in the middle of doing a series of posts on the rest of the advice I got from Mr. Reese.  It was really good time spent with someone who has a lot of experience from both sides of ministry and business.

    Here is the link… 

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for the link, Chris. I think sometimes we get taken advantage of as Christians in suffering fools too long. Ultimately, as you will read in Necessary Endings, it doesn’t help the fool and it wears us out!

      • Michael Nichols

        I agree – Dr. Cloud does a great job addressing when a relationship or behavior is no longer sustainable. Every leader should read the last chapter of his book every week! (Ok…maybe every other week.)

  • chris vonada

    Yep, I can see where I’ve done some pretty foolish things… but I have learned that, in every situation, if I’m being honest with myself (essential!), I can always find room to improve, and if I focus on this as a goal, I’m going to be better, not only for me, but also for everyone around me. Good thoughts here, Michael!

    • Kari Scare

      You hit on something I hadn’t connected with this post yet, being honest with yourself. That is key to truly having wisdom.

    • Daren Sirbough

      Understanding that you can always find room to improve is a great conviction to have!

    • Tim Peters

      Chris, I think you “nailed this idea on the head.” Being honest with yourself is the key.  Deep self evaluation. 

  • Janellrardon

    Finally, you are blunt and honest. I so needed this today. You never sugar-coat and it is exactly what I need. My heart longs for authenticity – in myself and in the body of Christ. Thank you, Michael.

    • Tim Peters

      I am with you on the heart for authenticity.  

  • Janellrardon

    Oh, and YES to Necessary Endings. I’ve been VLOG’ging (is that a word?) using this extraordinary, honest book by Dr. Cloud. Sometimes endings just have to happen. This book has made me take a long hard look in the mirror of my life so I can move on and then help others move on. It is a must read for sure!

  • Leah Adams

    Oh my, I have been a fool far more often than I would like. Hopefully as I seek to walk closer to the Lord and purposely ask Him for wisdom, I will be a fool less often.

    • Kelly Combs

      Leah, everyone has a foolish moment.  However, the moment you learn from your mistake, you become wise.  Keep learning!

    • Daren Sirbough

      Thank God for Grace which saves and also empowers then right!

  • Forrest

    Thanks. Goes a long way toward explaining why I keep reliving groundhog day over and over with the same customer who asks for and receives recommendations and never changes.

    • Tim Peters

      Forrest –  That is funny.  I was just telling my wife a couple of days ago, “I feel like I am living in groundhog day.”

  • Sia Knight

    Great post Michael.  I would also add that the difference between a wise person and  fool is not about age.  As a person who works with teenagers on a consistent basis, I am often surprised by the insight and maturity that they are able to bring to a situation.
    I am also equally surprised by the foolishness demostrated by some of the “seasoned” individual that I come across.

    • Michael Hyatt

      That is a great distinction! You are right.

  • John Richardson

    I’ve made quite a few foolish mistakes through my lifetime. Thankfully, many have been great teachers, showing me a different path to take in the future. Others have been more subtle, where I’ve written them off. In this case it’s because I’ve decided it was someone else’s fault or circumstances beyond my control. These are the dangerous ones, because they can reoccur over and over. I’ve found that having wise council with good mentors can really help here.

    A good mentor can help me see what I can’t see… myself.

    Once I know what the problem is, I can change.

    Then it just comes down to a decision.

    Wise or fool…

    A good mentor helps me make the right decision.

    • Kelly Combs

      There is a big difference between making a foolish mistake and being a fool. The fact that you respond to a mentor’s help, or can see your foolish mistake in hindsight makes you wise, in my opinion. The fool never learns.  Making a mistake isn’t foolish, it’s life.  Refusing to learn from your mistakes is the foolish part.  

      • John Richardson

        So true, Kelly. This blog, and the many participants, have been a great source of mentorship to me.

  • Anonymous

    Good stuff Michael, and the podcast have been off the chain! Keep it coming.

    • Tim Peters

      Scott.  Glad you enjoyed the podcasts.  I am the same.  Good stuff. 

  • Kari Scare

    I can recall a time in my life when I was a fool, and the telltale sign was my being unteachable. I have a friend who is currently being a fool, and I have set limits and boundaries on our interactions. A teachable spirit is crucial for a person’s growth, and it’s something I am adamant about cultivating in my kids. I’ve been without it personally, and life is way better when you are teachable and always willing to learn.

  • Dana Jones

    This post is wonderful! I had a boss who was a fool and didn’t listen. But I DID listen and realized whenever anything happened it was never her fault. Blame was always easily pointed at anyone else in sight. Any person that never accepts responsibility for being wrong isn’t a wise person. It has definitely helped me to stop talking and giving thoughtful advice to people who just don’t want to hear it! 

    • Tim Peters

      Awesome Dana.  That is tough to do.  Good patience. 

  • Geoff Webb

    Fools fascinate—and frustrate—me. Even when I look back at my own foolishness, I’m amazed.

    Thanks for this wonderfully clarifying distinction. Throughout my career in the military, then in business, I’ve always known I have a tendency to believe everyone can improve, everyone can “get it.” Maybe too much. For years, I’ve had secular colleagues and embittered bosses tell me it just wasn’t so—that there are some people you just can’t help.

    What I like about this post is that it doesn’t give up on the fools, just deals with them differently. Thanks!

    • Barry Hill

      I am with you. When I look back at my foolishness—I am amazed!

  • Cris Ferreira

    I have to admit that sometimes I behave like a fool. I noticed that my problem were with some key subjects or keywords that pushed my buttons, then I would I stop listening and go into defensive mode. Ever since I realized that, I have been able to control it and work on its root cause (mostly, pride). But every now and then, I let myself fall again. When that happens, all that it’s left to do is apologize and ask the other person for another chance.

    • Michael Hyatt

      You have an amazing amount of self-awareness. I think that is the beginning of wisdom.

      • Daren Sirbough

        I’d agree with that. Once I became self-aware and humbled myself, things really started to change. Slowly but surely.

        • Cris Ferreira

          Daren, I agree with you. It’s slow, and it requires a lot of work, but you can see the fruits of your effort on how other people approach you. They too feel more comfortable talking to you as soon as they realize you respect their opinion and listen to them.

    • Deliverme

       Great discussion! Cris, thank you for your respond! I agree with the button pushing. We have to continually look at ourselves, pride and all. What I have a struggle with is doing my best to listen and to put into practice what “wise peeps” say. And it turns out to be incorrect, leading me down a wrong pathway, etc. Thus my defensiveness comes out and I seem like I do not listen or am argumentative. Thus a fool! I believe there are deeper issues than perhaps labeling wise and foolishness. Stress, sleep deprivation, nutrition and many other factors can be involved. Moreover, how things are taught and caught in our childhood. What did we learn, what did we observe. Have we found a way out of practicing unwise behaviors, attitudes, ways of thinking! We are onions that need peeled down to the core (the Lord’s pruning and sanctification).

      • Deliverme (David Brownlee)

         Great discussion! Cris, thank you for your reply! I agree with the
        button pushing. We have to continually look at ourselves, pride and all.
        What I have a struggle with is doing my best to listen and to put into
        practice what “wise peeps” say. And it turns out to be incorrect,
        leading me down a wrong pathway, etc. Thus my defensiveness comes out
        and I seem like I do not listen or am argumentative. Thus a fool! I
        believe there are deeper issues than perhaps labeling wise and
        foolishness. Stress, sleep deprivation, nutrition and many other factors
        can be involved. Moreover, how things are taught and caught in our
        childhood. What did we learn, what did we observe. Have we found a way
        out of practicing unwise behaviors, attitudes, ways of thinking! We are
        onions that need peeled down to the core (the Lord’s pruning and

        Corrected reply!

        Thank you

        Deliverme (David Brownlee)

        • Cris Ferreira

          David, I agree with you, sometimes the person who talks to you might not have a good counsel after all. What I usually do is to focus on the feedback itself. What did he/she said about my behavior, or work, or whatever it is that I am doing that bothered them? Listen to what they have to say about it, and ask questions first focusing on the issue itself. Then, when the issue is clear, you can get some suggestions about how to fix it or improve it, but make sure to talk about your plan of action to other people too, they might have better ideas. Have it clear on your mind what the problem is before trying to fix it. And, of course, pray about it.

  • Charlie Lyons

    Great thoughts here, Michael. I just had an interaction last night with someone that seemingly would qualify as a fool. For some time now in her life, it’s been decision after decision on her part (passive or otherwise) that has led to being in a really difficult spot. I think, though, how many of “us” (those who “have it together”) does God look at and say, “Again, child? Really?” I’ve been reminded of late: “To him that stands, take heed lest ye fall.”

    Thanks for your post, Michael — right on.

    • Tim Peters

      Charlie,  I too wonder what God thinks about us.  Good way to put it – “Again, child? Really?”  Glad God is full of grace. 

      • Charlie Lyons

        “But for the grace of God, there go I.” Grace is so very integral and crucial for us as His children; without it, we would not be who we are in Christ.

        Thanks, Tim.

  • Dennis

    I fear all too often I have been the fool. It was, in my mind at least, a sign of strength to be right. In reality it was a symptom of an internal wound, a warning light indicating a sort of self unraveling.

    Thank you for this reminder to the wise, that in seeing this warning in others we must set limits. Not only will the fool waste the time of the wise if allowed, but they will pull others down with them. Besides, talking to a fool quite often drives them deeper into foolishness. The fool, much like an addict, can only be helped if they first accept the truth about themselves.

  • Jack Lynady

    Nice read Michael. A few more observations about the wise. They typically ask provoking questions, listen to what’s not being said, and offer only when pursued. Often we don’t want to hear from the Sage because what He has to say is disruptive and often counter to how we are pursuing life. The truth is we have a little of the fool and a little of the wise in all of us.

  • Lisa Cour

    Just taking the time to say how much I’ve enjoyed your posts in the last month or so since subscribing.  I have yet to make time for writing out my Life Plan but am anxious to do that.  I’m learning so much and my prayer is that I would be a lifetime wise person…or at least open to how to be one!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Lisa. I appreciate you taking time to comment. All the best.

  • Kelly Combs

    Love this post! Growing up with an alcoholic, mentally ill mother, I finally learned to 1. Stop talking (stop trying to “fix” her), #2 set limits (boundaries), and #3 give consequences (sadly, ending the relationship after 35 years of pain).  

    It’s interesting how people trapped in foolish (co-dependent)  relationships see setting limits and consequences as “mean.” But I think it is life saving. Those tips at the end of your post literally saved my sanity, and I use them in every relationship. Yes, we can and should speak the truth in love, and offer forgiveness to those around us. However, we can’t change a fool.  Only God can. And trying to change a fool only confuses the issue of which person is the fool.  :-)  

    I’m going to check out that book!

    • Daren Sirbough

      I’m in a similar situation with a family member of mine. I can totally relate to that situation.

      • Kelly Combs

        Thank you for sharing that Daren. It helps to know we are not alone. I will pray for your situation right now.

  • Sbrani

    Wise words. Thanks, Michael. I, too, have seen this through the years. Jesus models for us how to handle situations with each. How very true that I must stay close to Him in order to grow in wisdom.

  • Michael Mulligan

    I’m excited to read the book you recommended.  I discovered my foolish ways when a wise man visited our church to speak.  He explained how you can see yourself in the Bible characters if you pretend you are looking in a mirror while reading.  Pretty much every character Jesus met in the New Testament is a fool.  When you look in the mirror, you see a fool.  You also begin to see Jesus in a new light, a person who is willing to help the fool as long as the fool is willing to repent, or change.

    Thanks for offering a wise lesson to this newcomer to your blog.

  • Beck Gambill

    I had a flashback as I was reading! I recall the exact moment I realized I was a fool. My parents had been reading from Proverbs at meal times. I was a young teen and thought I knew everything, of course. One afternoon  my Dad read a particular passage about the behavior of a fool, in particular refusing correction. A lightning bolt hit me and I realized he had just described me. I prayed later that God would change my heart. It was a powerful moment that has shaped my life.

    Thanks for sharing this truth, as a ministry couple my husband and I deal with fools often. I’m going to share this with my husband, it will come in handy!

  • Su@TheIntentionalHome

    I am new here. Been getting your posts sent to my email for about a month now.  I feel like each post is so rich.  I share them with my husband often (principal of an elementary school). The post on Culture yesterday was so appropriate for him. I look forward to sharing this post with my kids (I have 5) about what makes someone wise. Thank you so much for the time and energy you give your posts. . .they are zingers.  I am learning a lot from you about growing my own blog/teaching/speaking ministry/business. I feel like your blog and the resources you recommend are an investment in my business and me.  Be encouraged that you are impacting lives and making a difference.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks so much for that. I appreciate the encouragement!

  • Sahu

    I loved this piece. After a long time, someone’s written something that’s a real God-send. As I reached the end of today’s post, I began to nod sagely at the realisation of how right you were, when it struck me that Self-righteousness was about to strike me, its hood spread.

  • Daren Sirbough

    There is a member of our Worship team who you would pretty much have to judge as a ,”fool” via these guidelines. He doesn’t listen, isn’t a team player, doesn’t attend church regularly yet grace is constantly applied to him. He is also currently on my young adults worship team. He’s been the same for years and hasn’t accepted correction. My young adults pastor still wants him playing on team, but he infects the culture of the worship team in a negative way. I want to create a healthy culture with a Godly standard. I believe the best way forward is to invite him to our social events but to take him off the platform and to explain why. I’m not sure I’d have the backing of my Young adults pastor though. We will talk about it more and I will be stern with my belief on the whole situation.

    I want to be transparent with my Young Adults pastor yet I want to set the culture right. Any advice?

    • Michael Hyatt

      You might have him read the chapter I referenced. Then ask him a few poignant questions.

      • Daren Sirbough

        I will do so. I don’t think he’s anti taking people off, but as a pastor he definitely wants people accepted and loved. It may just be approaching things in a different way but still achieving the same result.

    • Barry Hill

      I would also have a really open conversation, in love, with your Young Adults Pastor.

      • Daren Sirbough

        I may ask if he’d like to involve another leader so we can all have an open conversation about the matter.

  • Jeremy Statton

    I’m glad you redirected the question at the end back to ourselves. It is so easy to see in other people, but very hard to notice when I do it. I can control my own foolishness, but not that of others.

  • Louise Gallagher

    At the beginning of this year I started a blog called, A Year of Making a Difference. I was concerned that after six years of working at a homeless shelter, leaving that employment I would no longer be conscious of what I was doing every day to make a difference in the world.

    Yesterday, my blog paralleled what you wrote — how it is not about the feedback I receive — but more importantly, what I do with the feedback that makes the difference. In my blog, A Different POV, I wrote,  the difference comes in our willingness to be open to feedback without closing in on resistance

    Thanks for opening up more dialogue and perspective for me! Good stuff!

  • Harvey Young

    Thank you Michael.  I admit that many years ago I more often played the part of the fool.  Today I have learned the value and power of feedback and can say without a doubt that I have grown wiser over the years.  It is amazing how much we learn when we stop talking and just listen.  As always I enjoy your posts and insights.

  • Connie Almony

    My only problem with the above is the “changes without delay.” It seems to me we should all take some time to evaluate the advice, or “instruction” we receive before we accept it as having worth. What happens when the instruction comes from a fool? As much instruction often does, because fools love to give it. I think we need to be open to information and prepared to change if necessary. We just don’t want to be riding every wind that blows

    • TNeal

       Your cautions are well-founded. Paul writes about the immature being “blown here and there by every wind of teaching” (Ephesians 4:14). On the other hand,  the wise learn to discern the difference between good counsel and bad and then to act on the good. I watched Sutton Parks’ video ( ) about his newly released book, “You Can Sleep in Your Car…,” and he talks about knowing the truth but not applying it got him into trouble. The wise act on wise counsel.

    • Chriscoussens

      Two thoughts: First, “change without delay” implies that you know what change to make, not that you make the change the instant the advice is given. Many wise people give advice that leads to a solution but doesn’t spell it out. Discovering the solution is part of what makes it yours. Many fools, however, know the answer yet they delay for the right day, or when they feel good, or when they get that next raise. They never act.

      Second, proverbs makes it very clear that discerning is critical in seeking wisdom. It also makes it clear that often wisdom and foolishness look very similar from the outside.The advisor may be a fool. Thus we seek many counselors. We look at their fruit. We check the advice against the Word. Then, we act without delay.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Good point, Connie. I was really thinking of the situation in which a person sees the truth and then responds positively. They don’t delay. They don’t procrastinate. But, as you point out, they may have to ponder whether or not what they have received is the truth.

  • Dave Anderson

    I read Necessary Endings last spring.  I have now left Fortune 50 for my leadership consulting enterprise.  I have recommended this book to many people.  It was one of those turning point books for me.

    Henry Cloud writes poignantly.  Another great book of his I recommend is Integrity.  This is often a buzzword that  people don’t define.  His book is a great treatise on integrity and what it looks like in application—i.e.  Wisdom:  Knowledge applied over time.

    • Aaron Householder

      Go, Dave! Thanks for living the example & the recommendation of Integrity too. It’s on my “to read” shelf already. Now to read it!

  • Jamie Chavez

    I have nothing wise to add to this conversation. Just THANK YOU for saying this out loud. Good words.

  • Anonymous

    I work as a wilderness guide for troubled youth and young adults.  Listening, providing limits and allowing the consequences to work the magic is a very affective approach. Ones  patience can grow thin however you can not force change. When I witness a troubled youth realize  that they have to be accountable for their own actions , well it’s such a blessing ! Necessary Endings sounds like a great read and I look forward to making it part of my library !

      Thanks for sharing , Rick

    • Barry Hill

      Keep up the great work. Your calling is a blessing that will produce much fruit!

  • Bill Graybill

    Great word. As a pastor of 33 years I have learned to only go where I am invited. A fool will close the door fairly early in the conversation or relationship. I don’t push trying to get in where I am not invited.

    However, a wise person extends an invitation. They keep the door open. They are ready to engage emotionally and make changes.  Unfortunately there are fewer of these people.

    Which do you find? More fools or more wise people?

    • TNeal

       Interesting question at the end. Most people don’t show their positions in every day encounters (at least, not in my experience; perhaps lack of awareness on my part). The wise and the foolish though both stand out when situations reveal their true character. Arrogance usually marks the fool while humility the wise.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I know many fools but very few wise people.

  • Chris

    Boy is this not the truth. Look forward to reading the book.

  • Anonymous

    Good post, Michael!  Much to think about, here, both in terms of personal development and in interacting with others.

  • Jer Monson

    I love this Michael! What an important distinction to make (i.e., that between wisdom and intelligence)… From a Christian perspective, I think more parents need to identify and explain this distinction to their children before college! I saw many classmates ostensibly ‘lose their faith’ as a result of subjection to one foolish professor’s soapbox after another. As C.S. Lewis wisely noted, “Narrow-mindedness does not attach to what you believe, but how you believe it.” Thank you for your thoughts!

    • TNeal

       It’s interesting how the same environment solidifies one and undermines another. Your advice to parents is good if parents model their faith and prepare to be surprised (meaning, having a son or daughter come home with a questioning/searching mind; not taking for granted our kids will embrace our faith by proximity/osmosis).

  • Denver Chikwehwa

    Wow this is a powerful teaching, i am really inspired and it is also helping me to understand some people

  • Sutton Parks

    Interesting, I got defensive at the beginning of this post. I have done many foolish things in my life and would hate to be a fool. In reading your article I realized I needed to be quicker to accept change and get into action. Although I may be a fool (at least at time) I am glad there are people who can share their experience that will help me learn, grow and perhaps become wise.

    As a side note, some people laughed at Steve Jobs when he came out with the $500 IPhone. Now the IPhone business alone is bigger than Microsoft. But Steve was not defensive, he accepted responsibility and continued to change without delay. His competitors didn’t. Great article Michael!

    • TNeal

       Sutton, your book title sounded intriguing enough to check out your website. The video explanation really is worth seeing and listening. You just sold me on the Kindle version. Thanks for adding the specific story of what you learned to be grateful for. If you started out as a fool, you were wise enough to change. As I near release of my debut novel, I can learn a lot from you and your presentation. God bless you in your journey–Tom

      • Sutton Parks

        Thank you for your kind words Tom and for purchasing my book.  They say you don’t drown by falling into water but by not swimming out is relevant to my story.  I look forward to your book!

  • Guest

    What an appropriate subject for this time in my life, thank you.  I recently received a less than stellar performance review that has left me questioning my abilities.  It’s not that there wasn’t merit in some of the items it was that there was no direction, it was vague and subjective, and left me thinking I’m one step away from termination.  I have never received a review less than exceeds expectation at previous employers (this was my first review at a new company) and when I stated that I received a reply of, “I know how to have the tough conversations”.  At which point I realized I was dealing with a “fool”, particularly after reading Bill Gates New York Times opinion on New York performance ranking of teachers analysis.  I realize now that the review was not meant to motivate, change behavior, or encourage new habits but instead to humiliate and demean me.  I may never quite understand why my new manager feels so strongly about my performance as I do not agree my weaknesses fit the punishment or ultimate score received but I did do all the things you suggested naturally and shut up, listened, and did not engage.  But how do you suggest setting boundaries with a superior?  I cannot hear about my tardiness 1X in July when I had only been in my territory 1 month and did not know my way around – enough already – but how do I tell someone you cannot continue to punish me for this I understood you in July it is now February?

    • TNeal

       First of all, your situation is a tough one and you appear to have responded with grace and wisdom.

      My wife who excels in her job as a children’s librarian never grades out as excellent in her review. Why? Because the head librarian believes to excel you have to be perfect and nobody’s perfect.

      Ellen’s response is to recognize her boss’s limitations and not allow those to dictate her own performance.

      You will never be able to choose how your supervisor addresses you or acts toward you. You will always have the choice of your response. Again, from what you’ve written, you’ve made some wise choices already.

  • Cheri Gregory

    Necessary Endings is downloading to my Kindle as I type! Thank you for the recommendation.

    The conversation you describe at the start of today’s blog sounds similar to the conversation you described in Tuesday’s podcast: a friend, at a party, inundating you with complaints. 

    Both situations come down to differing expectations of purpose and audience. A fool assumes that his audience (you) should adjust to meet his purpose (to complain, to defend). A wise person will be open to adjusting his purpose to match his audience, demonstrating respect (vs. rudeness) to you and creating space for growth.

    • Jim Martin

      Cheri, I really like the way you describe these differing expectations of purpose and audience.  (It was so good, I read it twice to give it some additional thought.)  Thanks.

  • Trisha F.

    I really like what you said here – I just wanted to comment and say one key thing about wisdom in the bible – 

    In proverbs 9:10 it says “that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (NIV) And the only reason I point that out is because people can try to do the above things and have a “good life.” But without fear, aw, or respect of who Jesus is and what He has done for you – our wisdom will be limited to worldly things. Which in turn will only create arrogance in us about our wisdom and not the humility that comes with submitting to the Lord’s wisdom.

    Thank you for posting this blog! and not being afraid to use the bible as the authority!

  • Aaron Householder

    Thank you for introducing your readers to this most helpful book & what may be it’s most helpful chapter, Michael. Cloud’s questions have been the most beneficial part of this for me. 
    Between Provide Limits & Give Consequences Cloud asks, “How can I talk to you in a way that will make a difference?,” in attempt to overcome the fool’s externalized excuses ahead of time. And then he asks, “What happens if you don’t change?,” so the fool might contribute to naming their consequences & know the seriousness of their situation. Priceless questions for  all of us living in the human condition.

    • Jim Martin

      Aaron, thanks for more input regarding Cloud’s book.  I really do need to read this.

  • Donald Key

    The lack of humility is the reason many people will not receive correction or instruction.  Thank you for you insights and willingness to share.

    • Barry Hill

      I think humility is key, and knowing that the person offering the correction has your best interest at heart.

      • Sutton Parks

        Very good observation Barry and Donald.  I realize I must be humble but there must be a bond of trust established.  If I trust someone I am open to suggestions.  

    • Jim Martin

      Donald, you are exactly right!  So often our own arrogance gets in the way.

  • TNeal

    I read a chapter out of Proverbs every day. Your advice is reflective of that book’s wisdom (I wouldn’t be surprised if “Necessary Endings” makes reference to Proverbs).

    Your reading recommendation is duly noted. I’ll be checking it out.

  • AV

    Excellent blog…I know from first hand experience of what it means to be a fool.  Several years ago, I started a business by investing all of my monies and investors.  It was great prior to the economic crash.  I was told not to build so big, so fast.  However, my pride and arrogance superseded my humility, wisdom and ability to listen to those who were trying to help me.  I took defense to their words of caution.  Of course, they were right and I was wrong.  Boy was I a fool!

    I unfortunately lost the bulk of everything.  However, I have gained humility, wisdom and a new sense of priorities in my life.  It used to be self, family, Christ…it’s now Christ, family and then self. 

    I choose to become better rather than bitter.  I choose to learn from my experiences and to ‘fail forward’.  

    My ‘BHAG’ is to make ‘right’ those in whom I’ve ‘wronged’…will it ever fully happen? I don’t know…probably not.  But, I’m going to do my best I can.

    btw, is there a way to share these articles with Google+??


    • Barry Hill

      Thanks for sharing your great story! Also, I loved when you said you”choose to become better no bitter.” love that! I don’t think there is a direct way to add this post to your Google +, but there is a way to link it from your Google reader.

      Follow this link to learn how.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Unfortunately, I don’t have a mechanism for sharing on Google+ yet. It’s coming! Thanks.

    • TNeal

      Your story reminds me of an excellent scene in “Lost December” by Richard Paul Evans. A printing office manager tells about a huge sales opportunity that he lost because of his pride. He told the prospective customer what he could do and how great he was and on and on about himself. His arrogance wouldn’t listen to the customer’s needs. He was too busy patting himself on the back.

      The CEO later spoke to him after the deal fell through. The manager expected to get fired. The CEO asked, “Did you learn from your mistake.”

      “Yes, sir.”

      With lesson learned, the CEO chose to keep him on. Why? Because the company would be better off with a humble manager who learned from his mistakes than have to start all over with training a new manager.

      Yours was a tough and expensive lesson. My guess is you won’t make that mistake again. God bless you in your journey.

  • Rebecca Hession

    I love it when I get the exact message I need on the exact day I need it. God is so very very good. Thanks for being a great messenger.

  • levittmike

    I wonder if introverts (like myself) have an advantage on being wise or foolish, based on our tendencies to remain quiet during a discussion.  I tend to reflect on conversations and see the big picture after the discussion.

    • Barry Hill

      Great question!

      • Josh Bagley

        I’m introvert as well, for the most part always seemed  to have patience during conversations… as well as with making decisions and want to be open to the best ideas… Interesting question, you may be on to something.

    • Guest

      I’ve often wondered the same thing (I’m an extrovert and my husband is an introvert).  Ironically, today’s word of the day is perseverance with the following quote, “Do not be too timid and squemish about your actions.  All life is an experiment.  The more experiments you make the better.  What if they are a little coarse, and you may get your coat soiled or torn?  What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice.  Up again, you shall never be so afraid to tumble.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson –  What I thought of this quote was that society needs both introverts and extroverts to be wise and foolish or we would stagnate and certainly would not have much to ponder.   One thing is for sure, my husband loves for me to talk because I will certainly inevitably put my foot in my mouth, and that…..makes him giggle :-)  I am the petrie dish to his science.

  • Cory Caslow

    Michael, I have thoroughly enjoyed your blog over the past several weeks since subscribing.  I can honestly say that God has used your message in more than one way to impact my life and the lives of others around me!  So very relevant to what I am dealing with in the here and now!  Thank you!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Cory. I really appreciate that.

  • Meg Davis

    It’s so rewarding to realize I don’t owe my time to people like that. I’ll try to keep up the connection to observe if there is change but besides that the best practice is distance and Proverbs 26:4-5 “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Lest you also be like him. Answer a fool according to his folly, Lest he be wise in his own eyes.”

  • Erin Collins Harner

    As a health coach and nutritionist, I couldn’t agree with you more. If people don’t want to change, they won’t. All the coaching, help, advice, and tools in the World will not compel them to change unless they decide themselves that they are going to change. A couple years ago, I started a process in my business to screen future clients better through a comprehensive breakthrough session. It helps me understand where they are at and if they are ready to change– working with the willing has changed my practice and my life!

    Thanks for this great article. -Erin

  • Enrique Fiallo

    Having been a fool for some part of my life and career, I can identify with the descriptions. The scripture references you provided helped me a great deal to change the way I approached life, and allowed me to realize how valuable and necessary it is to become open and vulnerable to input so that real positive change could occur. Nice post Michael!

  • Josh Bagley

    Great post Michael…

    This reminds of the something I hear Dave Ramsey speak about a lot. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

    Sometimes we don’t want to believe there is a better way and get stuck in tunnel vision.. been there don that got the t-shirt.  But sometimes learning the hard way is the best medicine and as a friend giving advise, it’s hard to stand by and watch the train wreck coming.

    I will definitely need to pick up the book… Thanks.

  • Deb Costello

    I loved this post because it makes so much sense.  One of my favorite phrases has alwys been, “everyone makes mistakes.  What you do next says everything about you.”  Not sure who said it first, but your post here drieves that idea home.  Thank you!

    • Jim Martin

      Deb, I like this quote.  I have never heard this before.  Very good.

  • Deb Costello

    And look at all those spelling mistakes…  my apologies… 

  • EJ

    Great post Mike! This reminds me of my father talking for hours to my cousin because she’s insanely in-love to someone who’s already in a relationship and doesn’t like her but keeps on writing him love letters and threatens her girlfriend. It’s like my father was pouring coffee to a cup with cover. 

    I joined in the conversation then ASKED my cousin what’s her understanding about free-will. She said that it crossed her mind before because it’s conflicting with her vision of God’s planned husband for her then she started crying and stopped arguing with my father. 

    It’s clear that she has a bigger problem because she’ s even using God’s name for something wrong, but in this conversation, we can clearly see an advantage of ASKING questions first before TALKING. Remove the cup cover first before pouring in the coffee. If the person is still stubborn, at least you’ve done your part in giving a warning.

  • Isabel Buechsel

    Mr. Hyatt, I follow your blog and I am thrilled that you mentioned the Necessary Endings book, it is also one of my favorites…and the idea of fool/wise/wicked has been extremely helpful for me in my personal life.  I really like your explanation of how being a fool/wise person is not related to position /intelligence/talent…those are helpful categories and they add a new level of clarity.  Thank you. You are probably aware of this, but Dr. Cloud mentions this notion in his book SAFE PEOPLE as well…it is a very worthwhile read and I would be interested in reading your thoughts about it.  

    I follow your blog…this is the first time I post a response…so I would also like to take the opportunity to share one of my blogposts that were inspired by NECESSARY ENDINGS with you/your readers.
    Thank you, 


    • Barry Hill

      Thanks for your valuable comment and taking time to join the conversation.

      • Isabel Buechsel

        Thanks, it is great to be a part of this community :)

        • Jim Martin

          Thanks Isabel for your recommendation of the book Safe People.  I will definitely want to look it up on Amazon.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Isabel. I wasn’t aware of his book, Safe People. All the best to you.

  • Reba

    Thanks for the book recommendation.  I just finished writing a devotional for teens from Proverbs and so much of what you shared is scattered throughout the lessons.  What an important lesson to learn when we are young!

  • Brandon Weldy

    Just last week I started reading through the book of Proverbs. He makes some great distinctions between being wise and being a fool. He gives the consequences of each and I have begun to do some evaluating. I do not want to be in the situation you described above and have the person realize I am just a fool! I have had to deal with fools before and it is a frustrating experience. Thanks for these insights!

    • Jim Martin

      Brandon, nice reminder of the importance of humility and self-evaluation.  As you say, you don’t want to be in a situation where another realizes you are a fool

  • David L

    Agreeing to disagree and move on has provided some excellent opportunities for more effective conflict resolution and negotiating in all of my relationships. It often affords the time and space for the person who was behaving foolishly to reflect and make amends, if they were willing.

    Thanks for a practical post that provided insight into some of the most frustrating exchanges I’ve been a part of. Looking back I can see where I’ve dealt foolishly with fools and oh so many instances where I failed to exercise introspection that might have prevented some foolish decisions.

  • Anonymous

    The three items defining a wise person are what I use with my drawing students. As a regular exercise for them  (and to help me!), I ask them to evaluate my current drawings. 

    It is a very beneficial exercise both for them and for me, and it teaches us all how to be kind and honest at the same time.

    I’m not saying this to toot my horn as a “wise person” – only to say that this is one of the ways I learn and improve my art. 

  • Jeff Goins

    Listens without being defensive?! What’s that supposed to mean? Are you calling me a jerk? ;-)

    • John Tiller


    • TNeal

       Well, maybe. ;-) back at you (and thanks for my evening laugh).

  • Mari Ann Lisenbe

    Another great article, Michael. 

    I deal in the area of weight loss. This is so applicable there, too!  I’ve learned that, until a person really WANTS to change, I can’t help them. 

    That’s been hard for me to accept because I want to see others healthy and used to take it personal when they did not (was I not doing enough?  did I not say the right thing? provide the right tool?) ..

    This has been freeing for me – knowing that I only play a small part int their overall success. Ultimately, it all comes down to them, and their willingness to change

  • Brandon

    Awesome post!

  • Heather Anderson

    Excellent topic.  We all have to first ask ourselves whether we’re acting as a wise person or a fool.  But we also have to deal with other wise people and fools on a regular basis.  It is helpful to know how to recognize the difference and how to deal with them.

    • Jim Martin

      Heather, you make several good points.  You are right, we need to do enough self-reflection to know whether we are acting like fools or wise people.    Also, in our interactions with people, we deal with both kinds of people.  Michael’s post is helpful in being able to distinguish between the two. Two important take-aways from the post.

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  • Stacy

    That sounds like a great book! I have enjoyed reading his other books. Thanks for the recommendation!

  • Rob Sorbo

    Listening and applying are very important, but I think another major factor is how the wise man or fool are approached. No matter how valuable the critique, it is very hard to listen to someone who is being negative or hateful. If you want to help someone grow (especially someone who you know will listen and apply what you have to say), you need to share it with them in a way that they won’t be put off or feel judged.

    • Barry Hill

      yeah! I agree. That’s why this type of stuff is best delivered by someone you know has your best interest at heart. However, in the real world, employers don’t need to take that approach.

  • Lori Tracy Boruff

    First of all, I’m looking in the mirror. Second, I had not thought of  consequences – very interesting. Do you have an example of that?  Third, do you believe once a fool always a fool or can a person change?

    • John Tiller

      Great thoughts, Lori!  

      Examples of consequences would depend on your level of influence with that person and would only include those things that you can control.  
       If you have only relational authority in the person’s life, examples of consequences would include you choosing to disengage from the conversation or even the relationship altogether.   If you have more authority in the person’s life, such as a parent or a boss would, there might be other consequences that you outline and deliver for foolish behavior.

  • Lori Ventola

    1. Great thoughts. Mostly makes me NOT want to behave like a fool. This will stick with me.
    2. Be careful, brother. Judging someone as “a fool” is said to be akin to murder in Scripture.
    My takeaway: donkt be a fool, and recognize foolishness when you see it — but refrain from judging the person as a whole as a fool.
    Thank you, sir!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Excellent summary. Thanks.

  • Christopher Fleser

    I have learned alot about myself by reading Dr. Henry Clouds books. Read the Boundaries series he co-wrote and implemented in my personal and business life and now am no longer the fool.

    • John Tiller

      Boundaries was a life-changing series for many people!  It’s also been a great teaching tool for me as I have tried to help others.   

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  • Rickwomack

    Great post! Very helpful! Now I have another book to add to the “To-be-read” list.

  • kimanzi constable

    Good advice today, very helpful points. I’m picking up a copy of the book by Dr. Cloud, I have his book on marriage, he’s got some great advice.

    • Jim Martin

      Kimanzi, I plan to pick up this book as well.  Cloud’s book on boundaries has been particularly helpful to me.

  • Chris Coussens

    Love your blog Michael.

    My wife is a great gauge of when I’m being a fool. She say’s, “yeah, sure, you’re right.” then she refuses to discuss it further. It always makes me sit back and review what I’m saying. Generally, I haven’t been listening to some good advice.

  • Katherine Hyde

    I have seen this divide time and time again in terms of people who accept editing and profit by it versus people who think every word they’ve written is sacrosanct. Interestingly, it’s usually the best writers—even if they are beginners—who are the most open to constructive criticism and editing. Those who won’t take it are often those who need it most.

    • Michael Hyatt

      So true, Katherine. That was my exact experience when I was an editor.

    • John Tiller

      Really well said, Katherine!

  • Becky Jo

    In the past, I have been the fool. I now try to listen & soak up wisdom from God. I am now faced with  a serious illness. My son, who has post traumatic war syndrome from Iraq and all the symptoms that come with that is the one who has come to help me. In the process, it seems he needs my help. So today,  what I realized is the bottom three points – stop talking, provide limits,  & give consequences. Wow, I in a sense became the fool again. I just keep talking and the other two I have not done. I have been feeling since he came to help me that I should tolerate these behaviors. In the process of typing this, I actually need God’s wisdom & God’s help. My health prevents me from helping my son a lot. And the help my son came to give me he cannot give me until he seeks help for himself. So for me today the lesson is to ask God for the wisdom of how & where to draw the line & to pray for my son to become the man that God intended him to be. He is 27.

    • John Tiller

      Becky Jo, thanks to your son, and your family, for the sacrifices that you have made for the rest of us by serving our country.  I am praying for you both today.

  • Sfishwick

    Hi Michael,
    I like this post.   I have posted some of the content to my facebook page so that others may read it and benefit from your wisdom. 

  • Will Laohoo

    Thanks for posting this, Mike! This is definitely something I’ve run into recently but have never been able to connect with the Bible like you just did!

    I do often meet people who look out the window rather than in the mirror (to use Jim Collins’s metaphor) when thinking about their problems, and I think I need to take that advice and limit those conversations. It’s particularly frustrating to talk to fools (as you and Solomon name them) who argue vehemently that the cause is external.

    I’m trying to be wise and listen without being defensive. The step I need to take forward is to not be afraid to actively seek feedback. I’m working on eradicating my natural defensive response, and as I do that, I want to be more intentional about asking people to critique me.

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  • Sfishwick

    “God grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it’s me.”

    • John Tiller

      - A wise person once said!

  • Jodi Lobozzo Aman

    love all the tips, I practice many of them myself!

  • Martin Longden

    Thanks for a simple, clear article on how to discern my approach, and to ensure I’m up-front about adopting a wise attitude to my approach. I’m curious also, the business associate you mentioned you spoke to, are you still working with him/her? If so, what encourage him/her to adopt a listening approach to feedback instead of defending?

  • Allison Enos

    Up until my mid-twenties, I spent most of my time on the defense and always had an excuse for why things weren’t better in my life. I played the victim to other people and circumstances. Once I put my fear and pride aside and allowed others to help me and allowe me to help myself, my life changed for the better. The topic of this book really hits home for me!

    • John Tiller

      Allison, what a great example of accepting responsibility without blame!  Now you are in a position to teach others how to do the same.  Congrats on that!

  • Anonymous

    I am not sure many people know what wisdom is and how it differs from knowledge or, sometimes, even understanding. That’s for reminding me that wise people nonetheless exist.

  • Matt

    I am so thankful you shared this today.   Unfortunately this is something my family has struggled with for 12 yrs now.  The story is filled with lots of twists and turns and it rather epic for those you have heard it in it’s fullness.   I am ashamed to write this but my father has been acting foolish and it has caused almost complete destruction in our lives and my father isn’t a bad person.  He has just has been making foolish decisions in his life and his pride has prevailed instead of his humility and courage.    I will order this book today.  

    • John Tiller

      Matt, I’m really glad that you’re getting the book!  The problem is more prevalent in family relationships than you might think, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.  Dr. Cloud is an expert at helping you to work through this by changing the things that you can control and helping you to disengage from the rest.  

      Good for you for seeking the solution!  Your family will be better for it.

  • Nina

    I know that I was definitely the fool for much of my life.  I took all criticism with defensiveness.  During the past few years, however, I have learned to sit back and listen, process and decide which criticism is valid and what I really need to change.  It has made my life so much better.  I don’t feel that I have to be perfect or right all the time.  I feel free.  Wisdom is so much better!

    • Jim Martin

      Nina, I want to commend you for your honest and candor about the past.  Fast forward beyond those years to a well deserved congratulations for what you are doing in the present.  Good for you.

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  • Ben Patterson

    Michael, I’m glad Robert Smith wasn’t suggesting you read “Necessary Endings” as a hint.


    I’m interested in your thoughts after hearing Henry Cloud’s presentation
    on this topic at the Global Leadership Summit last year.

  • David Robertson

    For a moment there I thought this friend was Dr. Cloud, but then I re-read the sentence.

    This is my weakness among my closest relationships… mainly family. I don’t know why though, because in my professional life I am quick to learn & take responsibility for the results I do or do not  generate. I’m a work in progress though & this post has encouraged me to attach this problem head on.

    Thank you Michael. As always your writing encouraged me to live better.

  • George Gregory

    I love being right, and in the process scare off a lot of people. I’m trying hard to learn to LISTEN. 
    I sat in on a webinar featuring Dr. Cloud and also found great clarity; old habits  are hard to break, but consistent reading of Proverbs in particular helps. 
    How can one walk away from a foolish person when an innocent third party (for instance, a foolish parent with children) will suffer? 
    I’m still trying to figure out the balance.

  • Evanessa

    It is a very good reminder for me that wisdom is not just about what you espouse and give, but how you actually receive instruction and teaching from God and Godly people. It is indeed true that one in position or in a certain level of success or even a very active giver in ministry may actually be a fool. It is a very serious warning to keep solemnly evaluating my own life.

    I can relate to the frustrating feeling of talking with a fool who does not want to listen and keeps rationalizing why he is correct and why others are wrong. So, that was why the conversations are going nowhere. Now, i recognize it. But we also have to be careful not to be quick to judge and look down on a friend who may be in a period of foolishness and stubbornness.

    Thank you very much for sharing:)

  • Teresa B

    Great post, Michael.  I agree with the comments about distinguishing a “fool” from a “foolish conversation”; similar to keeping the issue separate from the personality.  I can think of several recent foolish conversations and your strategies make perfect sense.  I have found that if I stop talking, sometimes the other person will lose interest, because what they really wanted was to win an argument that no longer exists.  Also, when I stop myself from reacting and truly listen, sometimes the real issue comes to light and I can help redirect the conversation to a more positive outcome.  I’m curious to hear more about “providing limits” and “giving consequences”. I look forward to reading Necessary Endings – just purchased the ebook.  Thank you for the referral!

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  • Amy @ themessymiddle

    This is timely! I’m working with someone within my organization that has committed a policy violation and after many many rounds of extending grace (which meant that she heard what she wanted to hear), it came to the point she is being offered a choice (discontinue the behavior and continue her legal association with us OR continue the behavior and discontinue being an employee). Her responses to things fall consistently in the “fool” category and the time has come to get off this merry-go-round. Thanks!

  • Joshua OneNine

    It seems that I am a fool sometimes but wise other times. How do you know if the person you are listening to is wise or foolish? That’s primarily why I am foolish sometimes but wise other times. I don’t always agree with what they say…

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  • Diane Yuhas

    I am typically defensive at first, then think it through later on, and finally, taking the silver from the dross, I change.

  • Jennifer J

    Id rather the fool got frustrated and stopped talking to me. Id want to make every effort…

  • Mike Hansen

    And wisdom, naturally also requires a good degree of humility. In fact, humility must accompany wisdom or I don’t think it’s wisdom.

    Thanks again for sharing.

  • Uma Maheswaran S

    True Mike ! The entire book of Proverbs talks about wisdom and foolishness. As I read this post, I am reminded of the writings of Ray Ortlund Jr. from his book ” Proverbs: Wisdom that Works” (page 28) about wisdom:

    “Wisdom is more than brains. It is more than morals. We could memorize the whole Bible, and mean it from the heart, without wisdom. Wisdom is skill, expertise, competence that understands how life really works, how to achieve successful and even beautiful results. We see a picture of wisdom in Exodus 35:31, where the word translated “wisdom” in Proverbs 1:2 is used for the skill of an artist adorning the tabernacle. We see wisdom in Jeremiah 10:9 where the expertise of goldsmiths is called “the work of skilled men,” or wise men. We see wisdom in Psalm 107:27 for the know-how of sailors, who use the winds and tides to make their way through the sea to their destination. Whether craftsmanship working with the materials of life or seamanship steering through the currents of life, so to speak, wisdom understands how real life can work well. Wisdom knows better than to walk onto the football field and hope the game will go well somehow; wisdom draws up a game plan that will score more touchdowns than the opponents because that plan takes into account not only the rules of the game but also psychology and timing and strategy and everything it takes to win. That is wisdom.” 

  • Patricia Sherrett-Gonzalez

    Proverbs 12:15 teaches us that, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.”
    The fool does not know that all that he knows is not all there is to know. This is the crux of the matter. As long as he believes that he knows it all there is no place left for the deposit of good counsel since the fool’s cup is already full of foolishness. Isn’t this a haughty spirit?

  • Jeremy

    Absolutely fabulous read.  Spot on identification of a fool vs a wise person.  This work proves helpful to grow in discernment.  Thank you for recommending it.

  • UK Fred

    I have enjoyed Henry Cloud’s video on “The Process of Dealing With a Fool”.  It is about 10 minutes that is both very entertaining as well as communicating wisdom.

  • Anonymous

    Great contemplation for the week ahead…and then some.

    Thanks Michael,


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  • Miranda

    You know, somehow deep down, have always known this, probably even recognized it, but I’ve never had it put into words like this before; I’m thankful you did. It also goes to show the Wisdom one can derive from studying the Word of God – New testament and Old. What I can add is this: if you want wisdom, ask of the Lord. He said in James 1:5 that He would give generously without finding fault. He doesn’t remember the sins you’ve committed, or how foolish you’ve been in the past, He just gives it to you so that then on you can be wise. I pray this prayer everyday, and I can testify that the Lord has been faithful in showing me better ways to live, that bring a harvest of good living. I recommend God for everyone – find God, find Wisdom.

  • Yvonne Seballo

    That information was needed. I have been a fool for years- forever resisting technology. I won’t even send text messages. My smart phone is smarter than I am.

  • Bmwbear129

    Sure Can!!  Once again relating this to the fast food employee industry…there are those who listen and those who don’t.  Those who follow rules and those who find ways around them.  I had being the “bad guy” and having to set boundaries and follow-thru on policies when I know the employee is better than that.  What you say here is of uptmost realism!!

  • Yetunde

    Nice post!

    A lot of times, people think in terms of smart (IQ)/dumb instead of wise/foolish.  Biblical wisdom helps you to avoid foolish choices and make wise choices.   It was definitely very foolish to remove the Bible from public school.

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  • Qureshibadshah

    Yes! i have observed and experienced such situation in my own social life.
    After getting this knowledge, i cleared many confusions. 

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  • libboy

    I have ignorently follow the second advice after realizing I had been dealling with a fool. Thanks for the recomendation. will surely get a copy.