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Help! Conversations with a Fool Go Nowhere!

by | Oct 9, 2014 | Articles, Emotional Abuse, Learning, Waking Up | 15 comments

This post is a wrapper-upper for two series. How efficient is that? I’m at the tail end of a review series on the amazingly eye-opening book Fooloproofing Your Life by Jan Silvious. The first two posts HERE and HERE give you a list of “fool qualifications” taken from Proverbs to help you discern whether or not your difficult person is a real, Biblical fool – or just a person with foolish behaviors now and then. (Like the rest of the human race.)

I promised that in this next post I’d talk about what kinds of things we can do—action we can take—choices we have—when it comes to dealing with our fool. And that’s what I’m going to do here, but this also will answer a question I posed when I ended my short series on women and submission a few weeks ago which you can read HERE and HERE and HERE. Here’s the question:

 I’ve tried having mutual conversations with my spouse, but we never get anywhere. He’s always right. My opinions matter little to him. He tends to dismiss and minimize any of my concerns. Every attempt on my part to engage in a meeting of the minds is met with either hostility or laughter. I often leave conversations feeling guilty. Like I did something wrong to even bring up an issue. I often feel confused and stuck. What do I do?

The second half of Jan’s book is geared toward helping the “fool’s companion” deal with their fool in a wise rather than foolish manner. All quotes below are taken from this last section, and here’s how she introduces it:

When I listen to these sad tales, the question that always comes to my mind is, What will it take for this “companion of a fool” to stop doing the same things over and over again? A wise person’s definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” My heart cries out, When will you stop giving your life away in little pieces? When will you assume responsibility for the life God has given you? The only way to foolproof your life is to stop being foolish yourself.

To come to a place where you can handle a fool wisely, you need to come to understand and believe some things.

1. Correcting a fool never works.

Proverbs 19:19: “A man of great anger shall bear the penalty, for if you rescue him, you will only have to do it again.”

One of the reasons we keep trying to get through to our fools is that we believe that if we could just come up with the right words or the right way to say them, our fool will finally “get it” and change. The light bulbs will turn on. They’ll cry out, “Oh! NOW I GET IT! I will change my foolish ways!” Not happening.

The Bible says, “Understanding is a fountain of life to him who has it, but the discipline of fools is folly” (Proverbs 16:22, NASB). In other words, any attempt to correct a fool is useless because “discipline” is foolishness to one who despises wisdom, mocks at guilt, and starts quarrels. This is the great dividing line: If discipline does nothing to change the fool, then your focus must be on you and your “understanding.” Wisdom must become your goal and your hope. It must be your safe haven and your delight.

2. You have to change your game plan.

Don’t answer the foolish arguments of fools, or you will become as foolish as they are.” (Proverbs 26:4 New Living Translation)

Change for you means that you stop doing what you’ve always done, and you do something different. One of the first things you need to change about yourself is how you think about your situation with your fool. I loved this section in the book:

A doctor friend of mine described what had happened to them this way: “When you relate to a fool, it’s not just irritating or abrasive; it will alter who you are. I work on furniture, and if I want to get rid of small imperfections or smooth out a rough place, I use a fine sandpaper, something that is coated with many small, fine grains. I think of those abrasive grains of sand as the people God uses in our lives to help us grow. Their presence is a challenge that we are better for having overcome. They are people who are different than we are, and as we emotionally rub against them, they help us get rid of some of our imperfections. We can be better for having interacted with them even if the situation wasn’t pleasant.

There’s another kind of paper, and that’s the kind that alters the very appearance and contour of a piece of wood. If I want to change what this wood looks like, then I get out the coarse paper. It has very few grains, but the grains that are there are large and powerful. With a few swipes of the paper I can do some major damage. That’s what relating to a fool is all about.”

It was interesting to me that none of the people I talked with said that while they were in the thick of their involvement with their fools they were truthful, caring, kind, loving, or spiritual. And there is a reason for that. When you allow a fool to define who you are and you fail to correct his definition, you become the exact representation of who the fool says you are. If you are called “stupid” and you believe it, then you can act stupidly! If you are called “crazy” and you believe it, then you take on the behavior of someone who is crazy. You see, part of the tragedy of continuing to engage a fool is that, despite all of your protestations and efforts to alter him, you are the one who will be altered—and not for the better!

Attempting to relate to your fool is time-consuming and exhausting. Remember, a fool will give you no rest (see Proverbs 29:9). And if you have no rest, then your mind becomes muddled. It is hard to make a decision. It is hard to think about anything except what your fool is doing or saying. So you can see why beginning to focus on yourself can be a royal chore. You almost have to peel your eyes off your fool even to see anything about yourself other than how you are affected by his behavior. If you are entangled with a fool and you are feeling like a piece of soft pine that has been altered, scarred, and indelibly changed by the coarse sandpaper of your fool’s defining work, there is hope for you. Just as a fool’s tool is foolishness, so the instrument you can command is understanding! When you understand, you will be able to see things as they are and respond appropriately.

3. Then prepare for kickback.

Fools do not like game-changers. They often react with more intensified blaming, anger, lies, and attempts to send you down the river on yet another guilt trip. They may get other people you care about to collude with them and define you in negative ways. This is quite uncomfortable. If you believe them, you may even cave and revert back to old habits. In fact, this is likely to happen anyway if you are just waking up to the realization of what is going on in your relationship. You may have to cycle through this a few times before reality sinks in and you come to a place of acceptance and readiness to seriously change. Living and walking in Truth hurts sometimes. But it also ultimately sets people free.

4. You can become an adult in relating to your fool.

A child has little self-control. They just say what they want to say and let the words fall out. (Hat tip to Sara Bareilles. I actually love that song.) Whatever they think – it bubbles out like soda from a shaken can. So when your fool provides all the inspiration you need to spill your verbal guts all over, you are behaving like a child. Don’t be ashamed to admit it. You should see me when I’m acting like a child. I actually start spinning around in circles flapping my arms and singing, “Round and round and round we go, where we stop nobody knows!” It’s crazy ridiculous. And crazy too. I’m FLIPPING CRAZY. Ever feel that way? That’s childish. An adult doesn’t do those things unless they are borderline insane. (That’s why you’re still reading this, isn’t it? Because you have a fool in your life, and you wonder if any day now you’ll need to be committed.) Here’s how Jan puts it:

Consider your relationship with your fool. Are there areas in your life where you are still holding out to get what you want from him or her? Are you continuing to invest energy into getting your fool to do what you want? Is there anything you have determined to accomplish in his or her life? Have you been working on your fool for the past twenty-five years? Are you determined that one of you will change or one of you will die? Are you holding on to a set of impossible expectations because that is what you want?

As you begin to mature in relating to your fool, you will learn to put those thoughts and strategies aside….It takes maturity to lay aside the childish schemes we use to control the important people in our lives. It takes real wisdom to become whole, functional people who are aware of the childish thoughts and behaviors that have buoyed us up in our struggle with our fools. It takes courage to admit that they do us no good and that we do them no good. Rather, they keep us stuck in a place where there is no air and no hope.

See? I knew my circle spin wasn’t doing any good. So what can you do, and how can you do it?

Don’t Return Evil for Evil

That just makes you a fool. This doesn’t mean, however, that you don’t:

Emotionally Detach

She calls it “feeding someone with a long-handled spoon.” So you’re polite to them, the way we should be to every member of the human race, but you don’t get too close. Remember what happens when you hug a fan?

Live, Breathe, and Speak the Truth

Ephesians 4:25-27: “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. ‘In your anger do not sin’: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”

Your fool will throw lies at you, about you. Practice calmly speaking the truth and then disengaging. (Walk away.) Don’t speak the truth for their benefit (fools only believe what they want to believe); speak it for your benefit. Speak it because it is right to speak truth.

Let Go

Jan writes:

You may be thinking, Let go? If I let go, everything will fall apart. I can’t let go. What will happen if I do? That’s a great question. But it’s one you can’t answer, and neither can anyone else. The only thing you can know is that if you let go, you are making a positive step toward freeing yourself from the complications and chaos that bind you, and you’re releasing your fool to the natural consequences of his foolish behavior. When you see the source of your problems and are willing to admit that only God can change your fool, you will have stepped out of denial into reality, where only God can work. By letting go, you remove yourself from the fool’s realm of influence and you give up responsibility for your fool. It is a conscious effort on your part as well as an act of faith.

…If you will determine to remove your fool from the center of your attention by detaching and leaving him in God’s hands, then and only then will you see what God can do.

At the very end of her book, Jan answers ten difficult questions:

  1. Can a fool be a Christian?
  2. How can I honor my father and mother if they qualify as fools?
  3. What if the fool is my adult child who is the parent of my grandchildren?
  4. What if I see my teenager becoming a fool?
  5. What is my role in regard to sexual intimacy when my spouse is a fool?
  6. What do I do if my fool is an alcoholic or an addict?
  7. What about all the directives in Scripture regarding turning the other cheek and loving my neighbor?As a Christian am I not supposed to love my fool unconditionally and forgive him “seventy times seven?”
  8. If I go for counseling, what kind of counselor should I seek?
  9. I feel so guilty for the foolish things I have done in my relationship with my fool. I can’t forgive myself.
  10. Suppose my fool surprises me and says he is wrong and wants to work things out. What should I do?

Get Fooloproofing Your Life and find out!

For further study I recommend: Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend and No More Christian Nice Girl by Paul Coughlin and Jennifer D. PhD Degler

What are some wise and foolish ways you’ve related to your fools?

15 Comments

  1. Dara

    Thank you so much for this series! I’ve realized the biggest people who have caused me so much grief in my life lately are bc they are Biblical “fools,” and that while I did extricate myself from one through divorce and almost no-contact, I’ve still been dealing with the others bc as much as I may not have wanted to, I have still been holding out hope of getting something from them that I’ve felt I’ve needed. So I now know where I’ve got more work to do surrendering in areas of my life.

    Reply
  2. Teresa

    This is so helpful to me! My H wants a divorce because he says I’ve “pulled away” emotionally…and I have. But I had to, in order to survive!
    He has affairs, is emotionally abusive, gives me the silent treatment when I’ve tried to talk to him about fixing our marriage, lies all the time. I’ve had enough.
    BUT then he throws out things like me pulling away from him and I start feeling guilty….BUT he IS a fool…and I know I did the right thing!
    I’m going to order this book…I want my children to read it, because they want nothing to do with their dad at this point, and I don’t want them feeling the same kind of guilt!

    Reply
    • Natalie Anne

      You might also like The Verbally Abusive Relationship by Patricia Evans. Emotional abusers are ALWAYS verbal abusers. Verbal abuse is so much more than just bad mouthing someone. Some of the worst verbal abusers would never bad mouth you. GREAT book.

      Reply
      • Teresa

        TY Natalie…I read that book a couple of years ago, and yes, I forgot about that…I think I need to reread it!
        My H NEVER yells or curses at me…I just realized very recently that he’s a covert Narc after reading on Leslie Vernick blog about Narcs. I was stunned.
        I’m at the point now where I welcome divorce…and that is from God…because a year ago the word Divorce scared the crap outta me!
        But I’m going to be OK. More than OK, because being single is way better than being married to a fool!

        Reply
  3. Fran

    I’ve read “Foolproofing your Life”, and it helped me so much! It was part of my journey to freedom!

    Reply
  4. Joanne

    I’ve been conditioned to believe that the strife between me and my fool is all my fault because I am “determined to misunderstand” her, etc., so I have been carrying a lot of guilt about distancing myself from her. This series has really helped me to see that I can no longer allow myself to carry the weight of that burden. Looking forward to getting the book to learn how to deal with future difficulties with a bit more finesse!

    As an aside, I am a reader of Cindy’s blog. I’m pretty sure I know why she doesn’t seem to have any fools in her life. 😀

    Reply
  5. Anonymous

    Natalie, I’ve been waiting with bated breath for this next installment! Thank you so much for this series! I bought the book after the last post. Going to start reading it this weekend. I have so much hope for my situation now, but I’m also afraid of how hard this is going to be. My fool is my husband. Sigh.

    Reply
  6. Sara

    Yes! This is so true. I testify to this as someone who spent over a decade and HUNDREDS of hours trying to “talk” to the fool (in law) in my life. Foolproofing Your Life was given to me about 10 years ago and as I “slowly” implemented the concepts….3 steps forward, 5 steps backwards sometimes…but now I live in FREEDOM. No longer being in bondage to this person brings so much peace to my heart and mind.

    Reply
  7. Kelly

    LOVE this. Thanks for tackling the subject!

    Reply
  8. Michelle

    Natalie thank you so much for this series! It has helped me so much in dealing with MIL with whom I live. I can’t think of anyone in my life that has the ability to make me feel more crazy and out of control. These posts have given my such clarity and hope, and I will be getting the book!
    Thanks again,
    Michelle

    Reply
    • Natalie Klejwa

      I’m so glad! Enjoy the book. Sometimes it just helps knowing you aren’t going crazy alone. 🙂

      Reply
  9. Michelle @Arrows And Olives

    Fabulous. I’ve been waiting for this post. My friends have been waiting for this post. We can’t wait to read the book!

    Reply
  10. Cindy

    Just popping in to say I appreciate what you’re doing. I don’t seem to have any fools in my life right now, but I think if I did this would be very helpful. I find myself wondering how I got so lucky as to not have such a common problem. Anyhow, keep it up. 😀

    Reply

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