Some moons ago, I encountered a moment I believe we are all familiar with, especially in the age of social media. I found myself staring at a post and comment that was, in my mind, so socially and politically incorrect that I thought my arms were going to separate from my body in a haste to respond. But, I withheld.
Instead, I sought counsel from a friend. By now, I can no longer place a face with the moment we shared. All I remember is casually mentioning that someone said something so outrageous and I felt like I needed to respond. This friend, so wisely squinted, looked up at the ceiling, and said, “All I can think of is that verse where it talks about responding to the foolish.” I made a humph sound and realized she was right. Friend, whomever you are, wherever you are, that advice resonates to this day.
Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you yourself also be like him. – Proverbs 26:4
When I first began searching for this verse, I yielded 162 results with the word “fool.” Surprising, to say the least, that Scripture has much to say about acting like fool. And, like all scripture, it is talking to us, begging to be reminded that our actions — whether in response or reaction — can be one of two things: foolish or wise.
Last week, the President said something remarkably foolish (… again). I had that same feeling where I thought my thumbs were going to leave my hands to respond. Instead, I waited. I knew many others had wise, loving, and humble words to say, and I had concluded that my anger would not add much to the already-overflowing boiling pot.
This is new for me.
I began thinking of this yesterday after I received a comment on an Instagram post honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. It was a simple post in which, as I understood, did not warrant a response. But, lo and behold, as the world of social media turns, someone decided they needed to voice their concern. Again, on a day set aside to honor Martin Luther King, Jr., someone needed to still say what they disagreed with. I read the words, took a deep namaste sigh and let it go*.
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in disclosing what is on his mind. – Proverbs 8:2
Do you remember the men who approached Jesus after they brought a woman accused of adultery to Him? Jesus — as I imagine — stood there with a raised eyebrow, smiled and asked these men, ready with their stones, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” After some self-reflection and honesty, these men moon-walked their way out of there. The wisdom of Jesus in this moment is revolutionary.
In His non-dualistic humanity, Jesus sees through their dualistic humanity — their inability to acknowledge their close-mindedness and foolishness. After all, the Law they knew was upheld by Pharisees who mostly, like myself, saw only right and wrong. The real beauty of the Spirit of God within Jesus is His ability to “bring plurality to everything” around. Meaning, the wise choice was to offer curiosity and let healthy conviction do its work.
The President, as long as he has access to Twitter and/or a microphone, is going to continue acting foolishly. The guy who commented on my Instagram post feels just in his answer, for reasons I mostly see through. And I will suffer from my own blind spots when I prefer the shadows instead of the mirror. So, like Plato so eloquently stated:
[The] Wise speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.
Spoken or written, there will always be room for words. Given that promise, I want to be known for thoughtfulness and curiosity over unfiltered, foolish banter. Hey, maybe I’ll stop getting angry inbox messages now … which might be wishful thinking.
* Let me be clear, any comment or action that I feel needs intervention (even deletion), will receive such. I do not believe in remaining silent in the face of objective, hateful, and deliberate injustice.