I hate to put people in a box because the reality is, not everyone is the same. We are complex beings, individual and unique. The problem is, when we are struggling with knowing how to interact with certain people it’s helpful to have an approach with the intent of protecting ourselves, saving us from unnecessary grief and suffering.
It is emotionally draining, and often embarrassing to reason with a fool, not to mention dangerous to dance with the devil.
Henry Cloud wrote a book called Necessary Endings that I recommend to my clients. It covers a way to group people that gives a framework for how to identify types of individuals, as well as how to address life in a wise manner. While it’s possible to judge someone incorrectly, the point is not to punish them or isolate yourself. The point is to be safe.
Wise People. Foolish People. Evil People.
There are basically three types of people in the world, or better, three styles of behavior:
1. Wise – When a wise person is corrected, assuming he/she was actually wrong, he/she responds by changing their behavior. Furthermore, they thank you for the feedback. “Rebuke the wise and they will love you.” (Proverbs 9:8) Therefore, with a wise person, the approach you take can be a simple head-on conversation. Even if it’s heated and difficult, because life isn’t always pleasant, a wise person is reasonable, logical and fair. This doesn’t mean that a wise person cannot lose their cool from time to time, or respond poorly in the moment, but they do come around and realize what they have done. They will see both sides of the situation and do their best to reconcile the relationship.
2. Fools – Unfortunately, we often do not know that we are confronting a fool until it happens. Our tendency is to assume everyone is like us and when the other doesn’t respond as we would, we think, “Surely if I reason with him/her…” or “Maybe he/she was confused, or didn’t hear me correctly?” Assuming the best in people is good, but making decisions that will affect your future based on a fool is not wisdom. The Bible says, “It is better to heed the rebuke of a wise person than to listen to the song of fools.”(Ecclesiastes 7:5)
Fools are confusing people to encounter because they can be very bright and gifted, often with successful businesses, leadership roles in the community and church. They produce and often succeed. The difference is, when confronted with something they’ve done, or are about to do, the wise man changes himself but the fool tries to change the truth. They are squinting. They look right through you. Confused. Lost. They deny reality, they minimize it, they externalize it, and a lot of times they get angry and/or retaliate. The Bible says, “Do not correct a fool, lest you incur insults upon yourself. Do not confront a mocker, lest they hate you.” (Proverbs 9:8)
So how do you deal with a foolish person? Stop talking.
Why? They have stopped listening by choice and no amount of logic will bring them around.
Be encouraged though. All of us are foolish to some degree and Jesus died for fools. In business, the challenge here is to limit your exposure, make it clear about the consequences, give them a choice, and follow through. In your personal life, limit how much control you give this individual and stay on guard. Pay attention and maintain your boundaries. “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)
3. Evil – Evil people are easier to see but I don’t think anyone expects to encounter evil because, contrary to popular belief, evil is irrational. One way we know that it is irrational is when tragedy strikes, people will say or think: “I don’t understand this” or “This makes no sense.” Unfortunately, there really are bad people in the world who want to inflict pain and they come in all shapes and sizes.
So how do we deal with an evil person? The strategy is to go into protection mode, not a helping mode. These people are beyond your help. Pray for them, be kind, but walk away and leave them to God. Essentially this means securing your physical protection. If someone is this unsafe, do not mix and mingle with them. Paul writes: “Reject a divisive person after a second warning. Have nothing to do with them.” (Titus 3:10)
Making these decisions is not to be taken lightly because there will be consequences, good and bad. Deciding how to move forward with some individuals can be one of the most difficult decisions that we have to make, and it often feels unloving or harsh to create boundaries. In reality, this is one of the most loving things you can do. These boundaries can be emotional, legal, physical and even digital; depending on the threat.
Boundaries help us define what we are comfortable with and how we “like” to be treated by others. This is where you get to chose how you allow others to affect you.