The Wise, the Foolish and the Evil
November 1, 2021 | View PDF
“The wise can see where they are going, but fools walk in the dark.”
“For the evil person has no future; the lamp of the wicked will be put out.”
In his bestselling book, Necessary Endings, Dr Henry Cloud explains to us that there are three kinds of people: the wise, the foolish and the evil. One of the most memorable talks I have ever heard and actually remembered was Dr Clouds talk on this same subject. I have found this to be some of the most helpful advice I have ever received, and I hope it may help you to be more discerning in all your relationships and business dealings.
Let’s take a look at these three types of people remembering that sometimes there may also be some overlap and that all of us may have at some time exhibited some of these traits, because we are all fallible and often self-centered human beings who make mistakes. But I do believe that people generally (and sometimes very specifically) fall into one of these categories which should remind us that you cannot deal with everyone the same way.
Wise people listen when they receive feedback. You can talk to them and reason with them. They take it in, and they adjust their behavior accordingly. A wise person encounters truth and changes as a result.
For example, after getting a speeding ticket, a wise person learns and slows down. After being told their words hurt someone, a wise person will try to understand why and make changes. They are open, not defensive, they learn and grow and tend to not make the same mistakes over and over again.
Foolish people encounter truth and don’t change. Instead, they try to adjust the truth, so they don’t have to adjust to it. Confronted with a problem, a foolish person will deny, blame, minimize, generate excuses, and do anything in his or her power to avoid dealing with reality. They don’t learn and rarely grow. Foolish people have a flat learning curve. As a result, they tend to wreak a lot of havoc and cause damage in their own lives and the lives of others.
It is hard to admit it, but some people really are evil. They intend to harm you. They want to take you down. And as hard as it is for you to believe, they don’t have your best interests at heart and want to see you fail. When I was younger, I used to find this hard to believe, but, over the years, I have seen it often enough and can no longer dismiss it. In fact, if you chose not to believe these evil people exist, you do so at your own risk and to your own detriment. You must learn how to spot them and how to deal with them if you want to minimize the harm and anxiety they can cause.
So, how do you address these three kinds of people in your life?
1. With wise people, talk to them, give them resources, and you will get a return. There is always hope with a wise person.
2. With foolish people, stop talking to them about problems; they are not listening. And stop supplying resources; they squander them. Instead, give them limits and consequences. The strategy for foolish people is simple: Quit talking about the problem and talk about the new problem. And the new problem is that talking doesn’t help.
3. With evil people, to quote a Jimmy Buffett song, the strategy is “Lawyers, Guns and Money”. The reason? You have to go into protection mode, not helping mode, when dealing with evil people. Lawyers, guns, and money usually get their attention. This is not stated just for effect.
The truth is that Dr Cloud is not kidding.
I promise you that you will encounter these three kinds of people in your life. The Bible clearly tells us we will. Seeing the difference between wise, foolish, and evil people will, I pray, give you a powerful and useful tool in making some of the difficult decisions we face in life.
Dr Lester Spencer
Saint James Church