When was the last time you did something foolish at work? We have all dabbled in foolish behavior at one time or another, perhaps more than once. But let me ask a different question: Have you ever worked with someone you considered to be a fool, not just a person prone to an occasional foolish act or decision?
It is interesting that many cultures have seen fit to formally recognize fools and foolishness. April 1, in the United States and many other nations, is known as “April Fools’ Day.” In some countries they call it “All Fools Day.” For some this provides an excuse for pulling a harmless prank or practical joke on someone, or fooling them by trying to convince them of information that is erroneous.
There are various theories about the origin of April Fools’ Day, including Chaucer’s 1392 literary classic, The Canterbury Tales, and observances in Europe and the Middle East that trace as far back as the sixth century. But one thing is certain: Fools – and foolishness – have existed since the beginning of time.
There is the saying that “a fool and his money are soon parted.” Another states, “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.” Most of us have been guilty of forming bad relationships, making questionable investments or poor decisions that left us wondering, “What was I thinking?” But there is a difference between occasional foolishness and habitually being a fool, professionally or personally.
It is not surprising that the timeless collection of writings called the Bible speaks about foolishness – and fools. Much of it applies to the 21st century workplace. Here is a sampling from the book of Proverbs:
The high cost of foolishness. We can labor years to build up something worthwhile – a business, a career, a marriage or family – that can be destroyed with a single act of irresponsibility. “The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears it down” (Proverbs 14:1).
The mindless habits of being a fool. A wise person refuses to make hasty decisions, evaluating alternatives and weighing possible consequences. But a fool acts on impulse without worrying about negative outcomes. “The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception” (Proverbs 14:8).
The short-sightedness of the foolish. Wisdom prompts people to remain focused on worthwhile goals, but foolish people can be easily sidetracked and lose sight of their objectives. “Folly delights a man who lacks judgment, but a man of understanding keeps a straight course” (Proverbs 15:21).
The undisciplined, reckless speech of a fool. Wisdom guides people in what is appropriate to say – and what not to say. Foolish people are quick to speak without considering the aftermath of their words. “A fool’s lips bring him strife, and his mouth invites a beating. A fool’s mouth is his undoing, and his lips are a snare to his soul ” (Proverbs 18:6-7).
The irresponsible stewardship of the fool. A wise person strives to utilize resources properly and carefully, but fools are wasteful and rarely plan for future needs. “In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has” (Proverbs 21:20).
Robert J. Tamasy is vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit organization based in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. A veteran journalist, he has written Tufting Legacies (iUniverse); Business At Its Best: Timeless Wisdom from Proverbs for Today’s Workplace (River City Press); and has coauthored with David A. Stoddard, The Heart of Mentoring (NavPress). For more information, see www.leaderslegacy.com or his blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.comand www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com.
1. Think of a time when you committed a foolish act or made a foolish decision that you feel comfortable sharing with others. What was that – and what were the consequences, if any?
2. How would you distinguish between people that sometimes do foolish things and people who consistently act like fools? Give an example or two.
3. What do you think would be some practical ways to avoid foolish actions or choices?
4. Of the principles cited about foolishness and being a fool, which seem most significant to you – or have provoked your thinking? Explain your answer.
NOTE: If you have a Bible and would like to read more about this subject, consider the following passages:
Proverbs 1:7, 10:14-15, 15:7,20, 16:22, 17:12,16, 18:13, 19:3, 24:7, 26:4-5,11-12, 29:11