Thursday, March 14, 2013

How Gladly Should We Suffer Fools?

Reading about the Big East can lead you down some weird paths. Enjoy!

The other day I was reading an article on the history of the Syracuse-Georgetown rivalry and it said of Jim Boeheim that he “didn’t suffer fools lightly.” I had heard this phrase before, but never really thought all that much about what it meant. This time I had to know, and so I looked it up and found a New York Times article dedicated solely to this phrase. Apparently it originated in the Bible, and the columnist David Brooks offers this definition:


Today, the phrase is often used as an ambiguous compliment. It suggests that a person is so smart he has trouble tolerating people who are far below his own high standards. It is used to describe a person who is so passionately committed to a vital cause that he doesn’t have time for social niceties toward those idiots who stand in its way. It is used to suggest a level of social courage; a person who has the guts to tell idiots what he really thinks.


He says that we should all be careful, because in a given situation, anyone can end up looking like a fool. The example he gives was witnessing a senior member of the House of Reps absolutely chew out a young reporter for a bad question. The question was bad, Brooks concedes, but the Rep was the one who looked like a fool for making a scene and showing his arrogance.

Piggybacking off FranT’s How Skelly Are Skells it raises the question: how gladly/lightly should you suffer fools? 


This question reminds me of FranT’s mom, who said that a Peach lake local guy had one of the kindest hearts. This guy never looked like much, never sounded like much, and I can guarantee you wasn’t worth much, but to Fran’s mom he had a kind heart, and that was the most important thing. And I like that mentality. So maybe we should suffer fools extremely gladly if we know their hearts to be in the right place, but not so if they are malicious, self-centered, or generally unkind. Basically, the definition of “fool” in this sense needs to change and consider how genuine a person is and if their intentions are good. Because if we’re talking strictly about intellect, we all need look no further than our own friends to realize how gladly we suffer fools on a constant basis. You might even say it’s a favorite pastime!

But back to suffering fools in the sense of how I discovered it, the State Representative and the young reporter from the article. This reminds me of another of my favorite phrases: “There but for the grace of God go I”. Basically, when you see someone in worse shape than you (literally or figuratively...mostly figuratively), you just remember that that could easily be you, except by some stroke of luck or divine providence or good karma that you either deserve or don't deserve, it’s not.

So did I just develop the Guide to Suffering Fools? I think I did! Here’s how it goes:

When you encounter a fool and are unsure how to suffer them, you simply:

1. Determine how good their heart is
2. Determine what kind of fool we’re dealing with here. Skell? Suffer away. Good hearted fool? Suffer away.
3. If still unsure, say “There but for the Grace of God go I”. If at this point you STILL can’t find it in your heart to suffer this fool gladly, you shouldn’t. Clearly the goodness of their heart is questionable.

So there you have it. Keep these 3 steps on hand in case you find yourself in a dicey situation.


What it boils down to is this: Everybody plays the fool, sometimes

And this: Errbody act a fool sometimes!

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