The coffee mug at the thrift store caught my eye because of its short message, “I do not suffer fools gladly”. I did not purchase the mug because of a noticeable chip on the rim at the location my lips would have touched it. However, the little slogan did stick in my mind.
I thought about the popular meaning behind the idiom, “Suffer fools gladly”. Generally speaking, we think of someone who suffers fools gladly as someone who patiently tolerates stupidity in others. So presumably. the whimsical coffee mug was originally bought by somebody who becomes angry with people she or he believes to be stupid.
There are probably many theological writings about suffering fools gladly because the original form of the idiom is attributed to the Christian, Saint Paul. Since I’m neither a theologian nor an apologist, I’m unqualified to comment on any accepted Christian point of view regarding Saint Paul’s words.
What came to mind was a passage from a book I purchased in 2012 by Robert Greene titled, Mastery. As I’ve done with many other pithy sayings that I believe will help me cope with life, I copied the sentence to a Post It Note.
“Suffer fools gladly, and don’t take criticism seriously or personally from people who don’t know what they’re talking about.”
My takeaway from Greene’s sliver of advice is that it is wise to tolerate foolish people and I should regard criticism and insults from armchair “experts” with a grain of salt. This can be extrapolated to the personal level to mean don’t take to heart what people who have not walked in my shoes say too seriously.
I recopied Greene’s quote to a fresh Post It Note and stuck it to the fridge. It’s a helpful reminder in today’s resurgence of intolerance of minorities and homophobia by officialdom. Evidently, I’ll need to grin and bear it regarding our powerful, foolish overseers and maintain my focus and self-esteem at the same time.
This is important, because anger obscures reasonable thinking. People who have survived and thrived under the thumbs of hostile regimes have displayed wisdom akin to Greene’s advice. We observe that folks who bide their time by patiently tolerating their adversaries, remain strong and focused in their resistance against despots.
“The serpent, the king, the tiger, the stinging wasp, the small child, the dog owned by other people, and the fool: these seven ought not to be awakened from sleep.”–ancient Indian philosopher and public servant, Chanakya
There is an important corollary to our judgment of fools. That is to remember to call ourselves fools at least once each month. Everyone has the human trait of subjectivity. Most of us consider ourselves to be better than average. Yet, considering the mathematical definition of average, how can most people be above average?
Do most people overestimate themselves? If we’re honest should we rephrase the question as, “Do most people overestimate ourselves?” A related question is, “Isn’t boastfulness a folly?” Great diligence and care must be utilized when labeling people as fools. So, in a backhanded way, it is in our self-interests to suffer fools gladly.