Christian Leaders: Are You the Wise Man or the Fool?

Oct 21, 2010, Written by Sue Miley

I always knew that Proverbs showed us much about being wise and being a fool.  I guess I just always placed myself in the wise camp because the alternative seemed embarrassing and uncomfortable.

Listening yesterday to Dr. Henry Cloud he gave me an out and allowed me to see myself more clearly.

He said that most of us were a mixture of a wise man, a foolish man, and he had a third category of evil.  (Still holding on to a healthy dose of denial, I’ll skip the third category for now!)

Knowing that I can be both wise and foolish opened up my heart to relating more to the fool.  And I really saw the fool reflected in my unveiled image of myself.

It’s All About Perspective

As Christian leaders in our businesses, I think understanding both the wise man and the fool, may help us all to improve our leadership and enhance trust with our team, customers, and vendors.

Here are Henry Cloud’s words, totally paraphrased by me.  However, these concepts can be found in his book Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality:

A Wise Manwhen the light (feedback) shows up, a wise man willingly adjusts to the light. Wise men (women) receive feedback and they use it!

A Foolish Man when the light shows up, they adjust the light to their perspective. They want the external world to adjust to them and believe that is appropriate.

I think we are all comfortable assessing when we are the wise man, so let’s look at how Cloud says we many recognize the foolish man.  When feedback is provided, fools…

  • get defensive,
  • shoot the messenger,
  • externalize the problem and blame someone or something else,
  • are in denial,
  • and, do not take ownership.

The Fool In Action

Think about a foolish business owner.

You own a restaurant and the fifth customer this week comes up to you and complains about the table being wobbly.

The foolish owner says “I have told my staff over and over again to adjust these tables.  You know how hard it is to get good people!”

Your employee comes to you and nervously asks if you are going to do their performance review.  You promise to get to it later in the week.  The employee speaks up and reminds you that you have promised twice already and it hasn’t happened.

Rather than apologizing and setting a specific time and date, the fool becomes defensive saying,“You know how understaffed we are.  I can’t get out of the trenches.  It isn’t my fault.”

There are a million scenarios we can imagine.  We don’t do it all of the time, do we?  But what I realized is that I certainly do it some of the time.

Sometimes I may not even say it out loud, but I am running through the excuses in my head.  I know I promised I would be at the client’s office at 10 am., but I had a client run late and there was traffic.  Besides the client is at his own office.  He has plenty of other things he can do for ten minutes.

Ouch!  That is me being the fool.

There Is Hope for The Fool

There is hope for me though.  Unfortunately, it will usually require uncomfortable consequences.

I can’t believe the phone company is charging me $36 just to turn my service back on.  I have been a customer for ten years.  All they have to do is push a button.

It’s an expensive consequence, but I don’t pay my bill late anymore.

I am sure if any of us lost a customer, we would stop being late, or start ordering tables that didn’t need to be balanced.

What is Your Wise-Foolish Ratio?

Obviously, some of us are more foolish than others.  It’s usually a mix of the wise and the fool.  Some of us may need bigger consequences.

Some of us may need a strong Christian colleague or a business coach to help us see our foolish ways.

But, if we open our eyes to see ourselves more clearly, there is great hope.

Hope that the wise percentage continues to outweigh the foolish.

Hope that as we begin to see the light in a different way we will begin to build more trust in our relationships.

Hope that our wise self will openly receive God’s grace and that it will certainly flow to our foolish side.

Do you see a mixture in yourself?  I don’t know about you, but I am re-reading Proverbs with a different lens this time around.

Reader Interactions


  1. small business opportunities says

    An intriguing discussion is worth comment.
    There’s no doubt that that you need to write more about this issue, it may not be a taboo subject but generally people do not discuss
    these issues. To the next! All the best!!

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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