Shakespeare came to mind when I first saw this ambiguous phrase, but it is not his at all. Actually, it comes from the Bible. Saint Paul was writing a letter to the Corinthians and using sarcasm, wrote, “for you suffer fools gladly, seeing yourself as wise” (IICorinthians 11:19). There needs to be a little history explained to get the full meaning. About 2000 years ago Corinth was a real fleshpot (if you know what I mean), and in them being of their ways, when the false apostles came to them, they rather listened to the false news than the teachings he/Paul preached about how to live their life according to Jesus Christ.
That sounds about right to me. Humans are humans and it’s easier to follow the ways we have engrained in us than to accept something new or foreign from what we have practiced. So, Paul, must have asked them to refrain from all their fleshly desires, and, well, you know how that goes…Shoot, most of us can not or had an extraordinarily hard time quitting cigarettes, let alone the ways of the flesh. And Paul wants us to what??? I will listen to the other guy down the street who says I can do everything I am used to doing, not change my ways, but feel guilty knowing there is more; I just don’t want to change anything. That sounds pretty human to me.
Now take that phrase and fast forward about 2000 years to present day society. So, we now know where it came from, but the phrase means something different.
Today, people use the term freely when they are disgusted with people they think are stupid, fools, or beneath them in the social spectrum. Oops, there comes the second half of the quote “…seeing yourself as wise.”
But it can mean something a bit different. There are lists of celebrities who do not suffer fools gladly — such as Paul McCartney said that of Harrison when he died. I doubt that Steve Jobs had time to put up with fools or foolish ways. Al Gore was among the lists of influential people I found — and I strongly agree that he has no time to put up with foolish ways. He is on a mission, a climate mission, and his every minute counts to get his message out. The list continues with all people who have no time in their life for fools and their foolish ways. In America, we are a work driven nation and we basically have no time for what is not on the agenda. What needs to be accomplished is of utmost importance.
I will leave you with what G.K. Chesterton (an English writer known as the “prince of paradox”) said on the subject: “When you’re with fools, laugh with them and at them simultaneously.”
And then there is Darwin — he wrote “Do not laugh at the less evolved for they are trying their best with limted mental resources.”
I really don’t think Saint Paul meant all this when he wrote to the Corinthians. I think he said you think you are so darn smart but look at you following the fool rather than the truth. What do you think?
Have a great one…