Simply stated, wise people learn from their mistakes and fools do not. The Bible says that foolishness is in the nature of a child (Provides 22:15). It is the responsibility of parents to train their children in the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6) and teach them righteous and responsible attitudes and actions. The foolishness of a child is often childishness — meaning that they naively do wrong things because they haven't been trained to know better. Childishness can cause accidents, including serious accidents, so it is important to instruct our children concerning childish behavior.
Consequences help us learn, so even for childish accidents, corrective action must be taken. For example, if a stray baseball accidentally breaks a window, the one who threw or hit the ball needs to be responsible (at least partially) for paying for and fixing the window. The consequences of accidents are different than those of intentional actions, but it is important not to miss the teachable moment. Often young people reach adulthood thinking that if something was an accident, they are not responsible! That is actually childish thinking which has crossed over to foolishness.
Without correction childishness leads to foolishness. This could be due to either a lack of instruction or a deliberate rejection of instruction. We are left wondering if the foolish person knows what is right to do or is intentionally choosing to do wrong. At some point in childhood, childishness often becomes a character problem or an Emotional Intelligence limitation.
It is harder to correct faulty thinking behind poor choices as we get older, but it is not impossible. It is always possible to grow in wisdom. But as the old psychology joke says, “How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? Only one but the light bulb must really want to change.” In the case of one who is foolish, the person must want to change. It’s not as much about what someone doesn't know as it is about their willingness to learn, grow, and change.
This is often the challenge when people come for counseling. They come because they are struggling with a specific issue. It could be a mood disorder, personal relationship, career situation, or financial problem. They are often convinced that someone else is to blame. The first step is to examine their own heart and consider what they are responsible for and what they need to do.
Foolish people are resistant to personal change. They typically want the other person to change. They continue to do things the same way and hope that somehow their life will get better. Wise people will seek wise counsel and humbly receive instruction. Wise people consider and take action on things that need correcting in their own lives.
Here are some verses from Proverbs to consider:
CHARACTERISTICS OF A FOOL
Hebrew definition of “fool”—casil = “dupe, ignoramus, ridiculous person”
- A fool constantly overtalks, using too many words, and underlistens to wisdom—Proverbs 10:8, 10:10 (often referred to as a “babbling fool”).
- A fool does not care about learning. He’s too busy talking—Proverbs 10:14
- A fool slanders and degrades others—Proverbs 10:18
- A fool does not take sin seriously—Proverbs 10:23
- A fool rejects the wise counsel given him and listens only to himself—Proverbs 12:15
- A fool is proud of his foolish decisions—Proverbs 13:16
- A fool has a low EQ in that he does not consider the consequences of his actions on himself or others—Proverbs 14:16
- A fool refuses to listen to the wise counsel of parents to obey them—Proverbs 15:5
- A fool loves to argue and quarrel—Proverbs 20:3
- A fool does not learn from past mistakes but continues repeating them—Proverbs 26:11
Summary: A fool is anyone who does not follow the warnings and commands of God. He lacks wisdom, has no concern for others, does not desire to avoid sin, and brags about his sinful actions (Proverbs 28:26).