“Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Or you will also be like him. Answer a fool as his folly deserves, That he not be wise in his own eyes.” – Proverbs 26:4-5
Fools are all around us. They may be intelligent and even successful, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t fools. And before you get too high and mighty, understand that you and I have our moments where we act like fools as well. The point here is that there are lots of interactions with foolish people.
When you come into contact with someone acting foolish (gossiping, slandering, speaking crassly, or generally speaking or acting without thinking) you have two choices. You can join in the “fun” and act just as foolishly or you can set yourself apart and present a holy example.
This is a lot easier said than done. Take for instance internet blog comments and forums. How easy is it to get into a debate that gets a little heated and quickly degrades into name calling and personal attacks? “I’ll show him” we think. We trick ourselves into thinking that if we can “get” the other person the way they tried to “get” us, we’ll somehow “win” the exchange. In a sober moment removed from the situation it becomes pretty clear (if we are honest with ourselves) that we simply ended up becoming foolish ourselves. We acted in the same manner that got us upset in the first place. What’s the gain in that?
In contrast, the high road is a much better option. It serves two purposes. First, you don’t become a fool. Second, you signal to the original fool that their words or actions are embarrassing or downright mean. You hold a mirror up to them and (perhaps) convict them and open their eyes to their folly.
Again, I’m not talking about taking a “holier than thou” attitude. This is foolish as well. If the situation calls for it, you might use a gentle rebuke (or a sharp one if necessary) but make sure it is done with love and not spite. In addition, sometimes the best thing you can do is simply walk away because there’s nothing positive that can come out of it.
In short, don’t be a fool to a fool or you become what you thought was foolish.