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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Speak not to the fool!

Did you know what a troponym is?  I didn't either, but learned it this morning!  I knew about synonyms, antonyms, and other "parts" of speech, but troponyms escaped me!  It is a word which denotes the manner we do something.  For example, shuffling is a manner of walking (a troponym which describes the manner in which walking is performed).  So, I had to look up the "troponym" for "ridicule" this morning, as this word came to me at about two this morning and just kept running through my mind.  Here's a little of what I discovered are the various "ways" we ridicule (poke fun at) another:

- We tease.  This is a type of mocking or playful "making fun of" kind of action.
- We lampoon.  This is a type of "satire" such as when we ridicule with sarcasm, often pointing out their vices with a little bit of humor.
- We expose.  This seemed like an odd way to describe ridicule, but it really does because we often "uncover" the truth about another with what begins as false claims.  
- We stultify.  This carries the idea of causing the other person to appear foolish.

Now, you know what a troponym is!  It is just another way of giving us the "definition" of what it is we are doing - but it describes more of the "how" of our action.  With this in mind, let's dig into our passage:

Don’t bother talking sense to fools; they’ll only poke fun at your words. (Proverbs 23:9 MSG)

Have you ever tried to talk to a fool in a sensible manner?  Ummm...I think this is an oxymoron!  You cannot use "sense" to reason with a "fool" - the two just don't go together!  In fact, Solomon tells us our "sensibilities" will be returned with "ridicule" (to poke fun at).  Now, look at our above troponyms.  When a fool hears "sensibility" being spoken, they don't see it as "reason" or "good advice", but as "teasing", "lampooning", or "exposing" the foolishness in us, not them!

You see, the fool cannot see the truth in your words.  Plain and simple, they don't find their actions exposed in your words, but find ways to turn those words back on you to expose your short-comings!  Now, a wise person already knows the value of exposure, for it is only in truthful exposure that we change.  But...at the hand of a fool, exposure can be a little demeaning, if not almost undermining of your character.

So, do we just refrain from ever speaking truth (sense) to a fool?  I don't think so, but we don't make a habit of it!  Sometimes we just need to speak the truth, then we need to allow God to do the rest.  I don't think there is value in repeating ourselves - because the fool won't see the value as intended for them.  There are times we get caught into conversation with someone who is just too foolish to listen to the words of advice - seeing them as something they can "poke fun at" with not only you, but with others, as well.  This is the problem with speaking to a fool - they spread the sensible words you spoke to others who also share in their folly - tearing them apart in such a way as to make YOU look the part of the fool!

Now, don't get me wrong - we need to bring truth where truth is needed.  Yet, in so doing, don't get caught up in the tremendous waste of time trying to "undo" the way the fool interprets truth than you did in bringing it!  You can spend a whole lot of time "undoing" the way a fool interprets truth and end up with nothing more than more untruth to sort out!  Speak the truth, prayerfully, then allow God to do the "sorting out".  You don't have to worry about the way the fool interprets truth - just your attitude and heart in delivering it!

If you have been caught up in the endless cycle of unraveling the foolishness of a fool's ridicule, you know what I mean.  The time and energy it takes will take a toll on you.  Maybe this is why Solomon advises us to not talk directly to the folly of the fool - because he will just despise the wisdom of our words!  When the folly of the fool affects you, what you do in that moment is judged not by the wisdom you speak, but by the attitude of your heart.  Choosing to forgive the ridicule of a fool is often the greatest piece of "wisdom" you can choose to "speak"!  Just sayin!