How to Identify and Avoid Foolish People

“Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble.” Proverbs 13:20

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I usually read the book of Proverbs to become wiser, but lately I’ve been reading it to learn how to identify and avoid foolish people (which I suppose is a form of reverse wisdom). We’ve all met them, and we’ve all dealt with the fallout. 

You may be familiar with the saying, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” At some point, if you continue dealing with fools, you become one yourself. Your network shapes and defines you in profound ways. “Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble.” Proverbs 13:20

So, what does the book of Proverbs have to teach us about fools? We’ll get to that in a moment, but let me give you the summary first:

Fools hate God, wisdom, common sense, discipline, correction, and hard work.

They love to do wrong, boast about themselves, try to sound smart, and speak without thinking. They’re reckless, dangerous, and stupid.

They are wise in their own eyes, self-deceived, easily angered, quick to quarrel, defensive, prone to excess, dishonorable, unreliable, unwilling to learn, unable to offer helpful advice, and they repeat their mistakes.

Basically, you can’t win with a fool (Proverbs 25:4-5). The best you can do is to learn to identify and avoid them.

You can identify fools using the Proverbs below. You can avoid them by not doing business with them, not forming friendships with them, not working for them, not marrying them, not creating partnerships with them, and setting up boundaries for them. 

Here are the verses. Take heed!

  • “Fools despise wisdom and discipline.” Proverbs 1:7
  • Wisdom speaking: “For they hated knowledge and chose not to fear the Lord. They rejected my advice and paid no attention when I corrected them.” Proverbs 1:29-30
  • “Fools are destroyed by their own complacency.” Proverbs 1:32
  • “The wise inherit honor, but fools are put to shame!” Proverbs 3:35
  • “Anyone who rebukes a mocker will get an insult in return. Anyone who corrects the wicked will get hurt. So don’t bother correcting mockers; they will only hate you.” Proverbs 9:7-8
  • “Fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense.” Proverbs 10:21
  • “Doing wrong is fun for a fool, but living wisely brings pleasure to the sensible.” Proverbs 10:23
  • “The fool will be a servant to the wise.” Proverbs 11:29
  • “Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.” Proverbs 12:15
  • “A fool is quick-tempered, but a wise person stays calm when insulted.” Proverbs 12:16
  • “A mocker refuses to listen to correction.” Proverbs 13:1
  • “Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble.” Proverbs 13:20
  • “A fool’s proud talk becomes a rod that beats him, but the words of the wise keep them safe.” Proverbs 14:3
  • “Stay away from fools, for you won’t find knowledge on their lips.” Proverbs 14:7
  • “The prudent understand where they are going, but fools deceive themselves.” Proverbs 14:8
  • “Fools make fun of guilt, but the godly acknowledge it and seek reconciliation.” Proverbs 14:9
  • “The wise are cautious and avoid danger; fools plunge ahead with reckless confidence.” Proverbs 14:16
  • “Wealth is a crown for the wise; the effort of fools yields only foolishness.” Proverbs 14:24
  • “People with understanding control their anger; a hot temper shows great foolishness.” Proverbs 14:29
  • “The tongue of the wise makes knowledge appealing, but the mouth of a fool belches out foolishness.” Proverbs 15:2
  • “Only a fool despises a parent’s discipline; whoever learns from correction is wise.” Proverbs 15:5
  • “The lips of the wise give good advice; the heart of a fool has none to give.” Proverbs 15:7
  • “Mockers hate to be corrected, so they stay away from the wise.” Proverbs 15:12
  • “A wise person is hungry for knowledge, while the fool feeds on trash.” Proverbs 15:14
  • “Foolishness brings joy to those with no sense.” Proverbs 15:21
  • “A single rebuke does more for a person of understanding than a hundred lashes on the back of a fool.” Proverbs 17:10
  • “It is safer to meet a bear robbed of her cubs  than to confront a fool caught in foolishness.” Proverbs 17:12
  • “It is senseless to pay to educate a fool, since he has no heart for learning.” Proverbs 17:16
  • “Sensible people keep their eyes glued on wisdom, but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth.” Proverbs 17:24
  • “Foolish children bring grief to their father and bitterness to the one who gave them birth.” Proverbs 17:25
  • “Fools’ words get them into constant quarrels; they are asking for a beating.” Proverbs 18:6
  • “The mouths of fools are their ruin; they trap themselves with their lips.” Proverbs 18:7
  • “Wine produces mockers; alcohol leads to brawls. Those led astray by drink cannot be wise.” Proverbs 20:1
  • “Avoiding a fight is a mark of honor; only fools insist on quarreling.” Proverbs 20:3
  • “Mockers are proud and haughty; they act with boundless arrogance.” Proverbs 21:24
  • “Don’t befriend angry people or associate with hot-tempered people, or you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul.” Proverbs 22:24-25
  • “Don’t waste your breath on fools, for they will despise the wisest advice.” Proverbs 23:9
  • “Wisdom is too lofty for fools. Among leaders at the city gate, they have nothing to say.”Proverbs 24:7
  • “Honor is no more associated with fools than snow with summer or rain with harvest.” Proverbs 26:1
  • “Don’t answer the foolish arguments of fools, or you will become as foolish as they are. Be sure to answer the foolish arguments of fools, or they will become wise in their own estimation.” Proverbs 26:4-5 (dealing with fools is a no-win situation)
  • “Trusting a fool to convey a message is like cutting off one’s feet or drinking poison!” Proverbs 26:6
  • “A proverb in the mouth of a fool is as useless as a paralyzed leg.” Proverbs 26:7
  • “Honoring a fool  is as foolish as tying a stone to a slingshot.” Proverbs 26:8
  • “A proverb in the mouth of a fool is like a thorny branch brandished by a drunk.” Proverbs 26:9
  • “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.” Proverbs 26:11
  • “You cannot separate fools from their foolishness.” Proverbs 27:22
  • “Those who trust their own insight are foolish, but anyone who walks in wisdom is safe.” Proverbs 28:26
  • “If a wise person takes a fool to court,  there will be ranting and ridicule but no satisfaction.” Proverbs 29:9
  • “Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back.” Proverbs 29:11
  • “There is more hope for a fool than for someone who speaks without thinking.” Proverbs 29:20