It can be so easy for us to connect with someone and start a relationship with them believing we have come to know who they are, their values and beliefs, and that we can trust them. Many times we are right, but there are also times when we miss it somehow and we get stuck in a relationship that upends us and leaves us doubting not only that person, but also ourselves.
A few years ago I was blessed to read one of those books I used to tell my clients is a “must read” for everyone because of the wisdom and sound information tucked inside. The book? Necessary Endings by Dr. Henry Cloud.
One of the most insightful chapters of the book is: “The Wise, the Foolish, and the Evil: Identifying Which Kinds of People Deserve Your Trust.”
Recently, I was in a conversation with a friend about the issue of trust and character in a person whether they were a close personal relationship, a business relationship, ministry relationship, or any other relationship you might have. As we talked, I began to review some of the things I had learned in the chapter I just noted and as I did I thought it might be helpful to share in this post for those of you who have not known about this material. This is not truly a “book review”, but I want to hone in on the key elements of what Dr. Cloud shares in this insightful chapter.
How would you define a wise person? Some of you may be wondering if I am talking about the spiritual gift of wisdom, but I am really focusing on what it means to be a person of wisdom versus the gift.
I think we all would like to have at least one or two wise persons in our lives. They are those in whom we can place trust and to have such a person or two in our lives is indeed a gift.
I am going to use Dr. Cloud’s definition of a wise person and let’s see how that fits with your own definition:
“When truth presents itself, the wise person sees the light, takes it in, and makes adjustments.”
Wise doesn’t necessarily mean the smartest, most charismatic, gifted, charming or talented even though some of these things may coexist in a person who is wise.
I love what Dr. Cloud also adds:
“The mature person meets the demands of life, while the immature person demands that life meet her demands.”
What are some of the traits of a wise person based on this chapter?
- They listen, take in, and adjust their behavior accordingly
- When you give them feedback, they embrace it positively
- They own their own stuff (performance, problems, & issues) and take responsibility without excuses or blame
- Your relationship grows stronger as a result of the feedback shared and received
- They express concern for how their behavior affects others
- They show remorse
- The feedback they are given propels them into problem-solving mode
- They don’t allow identified problems to become patterns
I love that list! It ‘nails the jelly to the wall’ with its specificity and allows me to be clear on what can help me know if I am looking at a wise person.
Let’s now add a bit more to our knowledge of people and look at how Dr. Cloud defines a foolish person.
“The fool tries to adjust the truth so he does not have to adjust to it.”
Remember how the wise person took in feedback positively and adjusted. The foolish person rejects, resists, and tries to explain away his or her behavior. This person is never wrong and has an excuse or reason for everything.
What are the traits of a fool according to the chapter I am sharing with you?
- Defensiveness is the immediate response to feedback
- Any mistake pointed out results in excuses or blaming others
- When you try to discuss the issues with a foolish person, rather than the relationship being strengthened, conflict and alienation or a breach in the relationship occurs
- Sometimes they blame the messenger who gave the feedback
- Minimization is a favorite tactic if outright denial or blame is not the choice
- Rationalization and excuses are the norm
- Anger rather than remorse is their usual emotional response
- Little empathy is shown or expressed about pain they may have caused and often try to frame themselves as the victim (many times of YOU)
- They live in a world divided into good guys (those who agree with them) and bad guys (those who disagree with them)
- Talking with them doesn’t help
One more category of persons needs to be defined as help for your discernment: evil people. I know we can certainly look at the biblical definition, but l want to share some practical evidences by looking at the chapter definition:
“Evil people are not reasonable. They seek to destroy. So you need to protect yourself.”
What are a few of the traits of an evil person (even though this is more likely someone we spot a bit more easily)?
- Likes to take others down
- Is intentionally divisive
- Delights when someone else fails
- Envy is a common emotional response in these people
- Patterns of deceptiveness are common
Looking at the differences as Dr. Cloud discusses in this chapter helps us to better discern and determine who is trustworthy and what kinds of boundaries we need in our relationships to be or become relationally healthy.
If I have intrigued you with the descriptions, I want to add that the chapter also looks at strategies for dealing with each type of person.
Proverbs 22: 3 (New Century Version)
“The wise see danger ahead and avoid it, but fools keep going and get into trouble.”
Proverbs 24: 19 (Good News Translation)
Don’t be envious of evil people, and don’t try to make friends with them. Causing trouble is all they ever think about; every time they open their mouth someone is going to be hurt.
38 thoughts on “Wise, Foolish, or Evil”
Loved these lists and descriptions. Helps me to take a good look at those around me, and myself too! We all have our flaws, but there is a difference between striving to better yourself and intentionally being toxic. Striving to be a wise person! Your neighbor at Moments of Hope.
All true, Melinda!! I am so grateful for not only grace and mercy, but the process of sanctification to grow us up in Christ in all things.
Timely post! Ordering the book. I was just talking about the importance of having boundaries and wondering how to implement them!! Thank you for sharing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It’s a book that is definitely worth having on your bookshelf for not only this chapter, but all the amazing others!
The wise and the foolish, sometimes they are both in the same person. May we have a teachable spirit and use the good common sense God give us and we shall be that wise one. I especially enjoyed Dr. Cloud’s quote: “When truth presents itself, the wise person sees the light, takes it in, and makes adjustments.” So true Thank you for sharing this awesome post with us here at Tell me a Story.
Thanks, Hazel! I think wisdom and foolishness may occur in the same person, but as a person matures in Christ we should see less evidences of that and I think as a whole they will never be at equal levels in a person. Christ’s sanctification should bring changes and help eradicate foolishness (knowing sanctification is a lifetime process).
Having wise people in your life is a gift. I can count those close, honest friends on one hand. Thank you for sharing. Very thought provoking.
One trap I often fall into is too quickly trusting people just because they’ve achieved a position of authority. Being in a “big” position doesn’t necessarily mean someone is wise and to be allowed into your inner life. Sounds like that book is giving you helpful information – thanks for sharing with us!
Amen! You are exactly right!! Pat Springle wrote a terrific book a few years ago entitled Trusting and talks about the risks of “blind trust”.
Great post, with good distinctions between the three perspectives. I have found that wise people have struggled through done the internal work necessary to be okay with God and themselves, and not assume ownership of another’s issues. As a result the wise person is free and unencumbered to remain compassionate, forgiving, and emotionally safe.
Thanks! I think you make some very valid points. I would add that to do so means they face the fear of “not enough” and gain the courage to discover the truth the Lord lovingly wants to show them.
I’ve always liked Dr. Henry Cloud’s work! I think Safe People should be a must read for everyone! Your post reminds me that to have the favorable traits of the wise person, I need to not blame, criticize or condemn and by doing this, I also become a safe person for others. Thank you for bringing these points in a format that can be grasped and practiced.
I could not agree more! I also agree about his book, Safe People. Thanks, Lynn. It was a bit different today to share this material versus a true review or my own reflections, but the material is unknown to many and I just felt led to pass it along.
I’m thankful for the many wise people in my life. Not everyone is wise in the same categories, so it’s good to have a multitude of people to depend on when we need advice. 🙂
Well said, Lisa!