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.