Monday, April 29, 2013

Redundancy and Repetition: A Repeating Theme

Redundancy and repetition are good for reflections,
but not necessarily for effective communication.

Visiting a writers’ networking website, I was intrigued by a post about redundancy in communications. After all, I’ve told myself a million times, over and over, “Don’t repeat yourself. I say it again, do not repeat!”

Various writers chimed in, offering their pet peeves about redundant phrases. For instance, “past history.” Unless you own a time machine or dabble in quantum mechanics in your spare time, you’re not likely to encounter any “future history.” Another was “plan in advance.” When was the last time you did any planning after the fact?

One writer complained about “serious danger.” I’ve always had a preference for not-so-serious danger. Then there’s the ever-popular “total annihilation.” When can you remember worrying about the threat of “partial annihilation”? “Trained professional” is a term that stuck in someone’s craw. This might be debatable, but I’ve always found myself very suspicious of “untrained professionals.”

Someone wondered why describe things as “absolutely perfect,” unless somehow they could be “absolutely imperfect.” And then there’s the term we’ve probably all used at one time or another, “exactly right.” I suppose that’s better than being “inexactly right” or “exactly wrong.” Am I right? Of should I say, “perfectly correct”?

The news media are fond of informing us about the latest “terrible tragedy” – I think that’s so we don’t confuse it with a not-so-bad tragedy. A writer commented on the person that “sprinted fast,” obviously not someone prone to sprinting slowly. Another person, obviously in a cooperative mood, complained about “joint cooperation” and “mutual cooperation.” I’ve never seen “divided cooperation” accomplish much.

Have you ever been the target of an “unexpected surprise”? Obviously, if you had expected it, you wouldn’t have been surprised. Some people say, given the turmoil in society, it’s time to “rise up.” That does sound more effective than rising downward. Maybe what we need to do then is “revert back” – because reverting forward doesn’t seem to be working very well.

I put forth the redundant “general consensus,” unless you’re seeking to distinguish it from Admiral Consensus or Colonel Consensus or even Corporal Consensus. Generally speaking, that is.

But there is one commonly used term that many people fail to regard as redundant: “Born-again Christian.” As I understand it, you can’t be one without being the other.

It’s kind of like saying you’re a female woman, or that you have a canine dog, or you drive an automobile car. (Actually, NASCAR stands in part for Stock Car Auto Racing, but that’s another matter.)

In the original translations of the Bible, the term “Christian” is used only three times, and two of those were by people wondering what to call those “Christ ones” or, as some would term it today, “Jesus freaks.” In Acts 11:26 it says, “The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” Then in Acts 26:28, non-believing King Agrippa, interrogating the apostle Paul, observed, “Do you think in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?”

The apostle Peter does tell his fellow believers, “…if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed…” (1 Peter 4:16). But even then he was acknowledging the threat of enduring persecution for what they professed.

However, the term “born again” is integral to being a follower of Christ. In John 3:3, Jesus told Nicodemus, a Pharisee, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” Later in the passage Jesus explained this referred to “everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:7).

Peter also used the term when he assured followers of Christ “you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:23).

Not to get theological, but the Bible teaches to be “born again” is to be a “Christian,” if you choose to use that term which, sadly, has been misused and abused by contemporary society. And to be a Christian, in the biblical sense, requires being born again.

So unless you’re fond of talking about insect bugs, feline cats or airplane jets, it might make sense to jettison the redundant term, “born-again Christian.”

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Words Joined At the Letters

You never know what you’ll learn on Facebook. Some of the things I’ve “learned” I’m already trying to forget, but I appreciate the thought-provoking insights that appear from time to time.

One I saw recently was the observation that the words “listen” and “silent” consist of exactly the same letters, obviously in different order. This is defined as an anagram, which is interesting in itself. But it seems the link between these two words goes beyond happenstance.

We live in a noisy world, from the relentless chatter on the radio and TV to messages bombarding us from various forms of real and virtual media. Even our cars and smart phones talk to us. To combat the noise, the solution seems to be generating more noise yourself – attempting to drown out the cacophony by creating substantial racket of your own. The auditory equivalent of fighting fire with fire.

The result, sadly, is like having 20 different radios playing 20 different stations at the same time – nothing less than sonic chaos. One of the foundational principles of communications is that you must have both a sender (or “encoder”) and a receiver (or “decoder”). But with everyone focused on sending their messages, no one seems to bother with the value of receiving messages from someone else.

To appreciate the sounds of the forest,
you need to appreciate the value of silence.
If you walk in a forest on a calm summer day, it’s amazing what you’ll hear if only you’ll listen. But the key to listening effectively is being willing to remain silent. If you create your own noise, you’ll miss the chirping of the birds, the rustling of the leaves, the bubbling of a brook, or the snapping of twigs as tiny feet scamper past.

We live in a society where decorum has been dispensed with. Obsessed with expressing our own views, bent on informing everyone about those things we’re for or against, we no longer find it necessary to extend the courtesy of listening. Thoughtfully considering what the other side has to say – or whether what they have to say might have even a smidgen of merit – who does that?

Recognizing this tendency in myself, years ago I adopted the following verse as a personal motto: “When there are many words, transgression is not avoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10:19). A similar verse states, “He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin” (Proverbs 13:3).

Too often we fail to listen to others because we’re too busy framing our own pearls of “wisdom.” “Hurry up and quit talking – I have something to say!” To those of us beset with such a mindset, still another passage offers this advice: “He who answers before listening – this is his folly and his shame” (Proverbs 18:13).

Years ago Simon and Garfunkel wrote a pretty little song called “The Sounds of Silence.” It was a quiet, reflective, and hauntingly inspiring tune. We sure could use some sounds of silence today. Whether the subject is gun control, gay marriage, the economy, social reform or the issue du jour, maybe it’s time we all called a cease and desist to all of our verbal spewing and tried once again to cultivate the simplest of virtues: quietly and courteously listening.

It might not change our views, but we might actually learn something. And instead of diatribe, we could rediscover what it’s like to have a civil discussion.

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Successful, Satisfying Day

How do you measure what a successful day
looks like to you?

Margaret Thatcher, the first female prime minister of Great Britain, died recently after suffering a stroke. Serving from 1975 to 1990 as the leader of the nation’s Conservative Party, she earned the nickname, “Iron Lady,” for her personal and political toughness.

After her passing, some of her best-known quotations circulated, but this one caught my eye: “Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it’s when you’ve had everything to do and you’ve done it.”

There’s great wisdom in that simple statement. Certainly there’s a time for relaxing, for what some people call “chilling,” but satisfaction is most often derived from a sense of having done something – and having done it well.

Mrs. Thatcher’s quote reminded me of a time when my friend, Ed Thompson, asked a group of men he was meeting with, “How do you measure what a successful day looks like to you?”

How would you answer that question?

Each of us likely would have a very different response, given our unique interests, abilities, passions and opportunities available to us. But in light of the reality that we share one thing in common – every day consists of 24 hours, no more and no less – our challenge is how we intend to use those hours.

Psalm 118:24 states, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Understanding God is the author of each day, offering it to us as a gift, how we spend – or invest – the time is a matter of stewardship. Are we going to devote the entire time to reclining on the couch, saturating our minds with inane TV programming, or mastering a video game, or are we going to dedicate the time to something of enduring value?

Again, “something of value” means different things to us all. It could mean working in the yard, painting a room, playing golf or tennis with a friend, visiting a relative, taking a day trip to a place of interest, or even reading a book. (Does anyone still do that?)

Being a writer, for me a successful day often involves one or more writing projects – an article, a blog post, or a chapter in a book I’ve been working on. But even though I’m not a real outdoorsy-type of guy, sometimes mowing the lawn, trimming some bushes or sprucing up the yard in some way also feels “successful.”

For Type-A personalities, checking items off the day’s to-do list can be very fulfilling. But perhaps the most successful days occur in the context of relationships, investing time and energy in the lives of others. The late Ted DeMoss, a man I worked with for years and greatly admired, often observed when it’s all said and done, "all that remain will be the Word of God and people."

It’s been said that no one on his or her deathbed has declared, “I wished I’d spent more time at work.” We can achieve satisfaction from completing projects. But the process of developing and nurturing relationships – with spouses, children, grandchildren, friends, people God has brought into our lives – provides benefits that surpass a daily checklist.

If we can help to make a person’s day better, by offering a listening ear, engaging in stimulating conversation, or simply being there with them, this can pay long-term dividends. And the benefits can be mutual. As Proverbs 27:17 states, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Friendship: ‘Species’ in Danger?

Friends. Somehow they don’t seem to be what they used to be.

If you ask someone, “What is a friend?” you might be surprised at the responses you get. This used to be an easy question, but today the answer’s become muddled, thanks to technology and social media.

In these days of Facebook friends, Twitter followers, LinkedIn connections and text messaging, we’re in contact with more people than ever. In an instant, with just a few pecks on a computer or smart phone keyboard, we can have hundreds – even thousands – aware of our every thought, our every move. And often they reply back to us, offering reactions, suggestions, even snide comments. But are these really friends?

The popular and now-syndicated sit-com, “Friends,” seems outdated by the current network of virtual friends. In “Friends,” guys and gals hung out together, enjoying one another’s physical proximity. Together they experienced many of life’s highs and lows, and were there to offer or receive comfort and support whenever needed.

Today, physical presence is not essential to “friendship.” It’s common to see people standing or sitting with flesh-and-blood friends, ignoring them as they tap out messages on their phones and tablets to people nowhere in the vicinity, often ones they’ve never met face to face.

There's something about a true friendship that
social media cannot begin to replicate.
Thinking back over my boyhood and college years, friends were important. We shared our joys and struggles, but more importantly we were just there for each other, talking about whatever came to mind. These people became an important part of us, at least for a season.

It’s not that I’m opposed to Facebook friends, following other people on media like Twitter, or composing a text instead of making a traditional phone call. Times change, and it’s good to be able to connect with people in an ever-expanding array of communication alternatives.

But there’s something to be said for the old-fashioned kind of friend, the person you were happy to see, who was glad to just spend time together, talking, joking, bickering, whatever seemed to fit the moment.

The Bible has a lot to say about friendship, even though it was written centuries before Facebook would become a factor in human discourse. For instance, Proverbs 17:17 talks about the constancy of friendship: “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

Proverbs 18:24 points out the value of being selective in the choice of friends: “A man of many companions comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” And Proverbs 27:6 observes a true friend is not afraid to speak the truth: “Wounds from a friend can be trusted….” Other translations express it this way: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.”

Jesus made perhaps the most profound statement about friendship when he said, Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends” (John 15:13). How many of your Facebook friends would do that?

I appreciate the advantages that social media offer us today, being able to communicate with people we could contact in no other way. And it’s an interesting means for becoming acquainted with people we’d never encounter otherwise. But I greatly appreciate my “live and in person” friends, those individuals I can see across a table, look in the eye, say what I want to say – and know they want to listen.

To each of them, to borrow a phrase from the theme song of “Golden Girls,” another sitcom about friendship, I say, “Thank you for being a friend.”

Monday, April 15, 2013

Rendering Unto Caesar

According to the experts, America is biblically illiterate. Although the Bible is the best-selling book every year in its various versions, translations and formats, it’s said few people actually take the time to read it even once a week.

Despite that reality, the Bible has obviously made its mark on our culture. Terms like “prodigal son,” “good Samaritan,” the “widow’s mite” and “sweating blood” all originated in the Scriptures.

When was the last time you encountered a cute little girl baby named “Jezebel”? That name was thoroughly besmirched in 1 and 2 Kings. We love “David vs. Goliath” matchups in sports. To trace the beginning of things is to explore their “genesis.”

Everyone’s heard of the 10 commandments, even though they might not be able to recite them. (People even think Moses looked just like Charlton Heston.) Movie titles and magazine headlines sometimes borrow the biblical term “sin,” although to entice viewers and readers rather than to repel them.

When Jesus talked about "rendering
to Caesar," He wasn't talking about salad.
Another Bible-rooted term, “render unto Caesar,” fits today, the deadline for filing Federal income taxes. In the days of Jesus, Caesar symbolized the Roman government. In contemporary usage, “Caesar” is our Federal government. So procrastinators squeeze these last hours to get their tax documents in order, assured “Caesar” in Washington, D.C. is waiting with outstretched hands.

But when Jesus coined the phrase in Mark 12:17, telling His questioners that government should receive what it’s entitled to get, He added something else: Jesus said to them, ‘Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s....’” We tend to forget or ignore the second part.

Some pastors might disagree, but when He added, “render…to God what is God’s,” I believe Jesus was referring to a lot more than denarii and shekels (or dollars and cents today). Psalm 51:17 points out, for instance, The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”

In Micah 6:8 it states, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

And in Colossians 3:23-24 we’re told, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men…. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Most of us fulfill our duty by paying our taxes, “rendering unto Caesar.” But I suspect we’re not nearly as successful at this business of “rendering unto God” – at least as He expects. These passages say what He desires most from us are humility and repentance, justice and mercy, wholeheartedness and gratitude.

I don’t know about you, but I have a long way to go before I can say I’m doing a good job on those counts.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

When I Am Weak . . .

Who among us likes being weak? If I asked for a show of hands – and could see them – it’s doubtful I’d find many uplifted palms. We praise and exalt the strong. The ones adept at “pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps.” The ones achieving with a “can-do” spirit, that insist, “I’ve got this.” History is filled with noble stories of “self-made” men and women, strong people who weathered adversity, conquered considerable odds and overcame obstacles.

They don’t erect statues to weak people. Bullies prey on the weak, which we know is wrong, but society doesn’t seek out the weak to accord lofty status. More often than not, we offer pity. We try thinking and acting toward them with compassion. But when we’re pursuing candidates for President, corporate leadership or superstar status, “the least of these” need not apply.

Weight machines and free weights
help us to stave off weakness.
So if there’s one thing we fear, it’s weakness. It’s not in vogue – and never has been. But the strange reality is, the nature of the human condition is that weakness is not an option – it’s a certainty.

It’s not often that I get sick, but a couple of weeks ago, I became ill with a virus or some other non-fatal malady. Down for the count for nearly a week. Achy, coughing, feverish, feeling like all my energy had been poured into a bucket and then someone kicked it over.

I spent a lot of time lying down because standing up was too great an effort. Quite a blow of my sense of self-sufficiency. And I felt…weak.

Of course, acute illness is not the only source of weakness. It can be chronic physical disability, or simply the process of wearing down with advanced age.

Recently a friend’s father, a prominent and high-respected member of the medical community, died. During much of his life he was renowned for his surgical skills, and made key contributions to benevolent and philanthropic causes. However, in his last years he suffered from major health issues and his quality of life diminished greatly. Even medical expertise has its limits.

Weakness isn’t limited to the physical body. We feel weak when confronted by any life circumstances outside our control – formidable job or career challenges; serious family problems; overwhelming financial hardships; the sometimes-debilitating stress of everyday life. Times when “I can do this” isn’t the right answer. So what do we do?

There’s the school of thinking that would advise, “Suck it up,” “just deal with it,” or “get over it.” Tough words – and often totally unhelpful.

I’ve discovered weakness isn’t necessarily the liability it’s portrayed to be. Weakness – becoming unquestionably aware of one’s limitations – is humiliating. But it can also be very freeing. We can stop kidding ourselves that we can do it all.

And when we reach that point, we can legitimately ask, “If I can’t do it, who can?”

The Bible, the most candid of mankind’s holy books, speaks much about weakness. And most of its central characters learned to embrace it rather than flee it.

For instance, the apostle Paul, whose life and ministry were anything but easy, made this observation late in his life: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me…. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

King David of Israel, a man of great wealth and power, had also learned through his own struggles where to turn when weakness asserted itself: “The Lord is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation” (Psalm  118:14).

In fact, according to Paul, God seems to delight in using human weakness to manifest His own strength: “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength…God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. He chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 1:25-27).

There’s a saying that when you’re flat on your back (physically or figuratively), there’s no place to look but up. Experience has taught me that’s not a bad thing. As Paul observed, “I can do everything through (Christ) who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

Monday, April 8, 2013

Famous Last Words

When you hear the term, “famous last words,” what comes to mind? Recently during the NCAA basketball tournament, a player brashly announced his team would defeat a much-higher seeded opponent in an early round. Unfortunately, the athlete had his worst game of the season and his team suffered a crushing defeat. Extract brashness. Insert humiliation. Eat words.

Last words famously uttered by people in the most literal sense are even more interesting. Revered science-fiction writer H. G. Wells is reputed to have said, “Go away…I’m all right.” Well, maybe not. George Washington, the first U.S. President, was a bit more definitive with his final words: “It is well, I die hard, but I’m not afraid to go.”

Actor James Dean, shortly before his fatal car crash, presaged his demise when he said, "My fun days are over." More certain of her own end, French queen Marie Antoinette kept her manners even on her way to the guillotine. After accidentally stepping on the foot of her executioner, she reputedly said, “Pardon me, sir. I did not do it on purpose.”

What do you think your own "famous last
words" might be some day?
One of my favorites came from Francisco “Pancho” Villa, the Mexican revolutionary of the early 1900s. On his deathbed Villa told those around him, "Don't let it end like this. Tell them I said something important." We can appreciate such sentiments.

You’d think writers would be especially good at coming up with famous last words. Poet Emily Dickinson, in her last breath, offered this provocative observation: “…the fog is rising.” Another celebrated poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, after her husband, Robert Browning, asked how she felt, replied, “Beautiful.”

Enlightenment writer and philosopher, Voltaire, is reputed to have sustained antagonism toward religious dogma to the very end. When asked by a priest to renounce Satan, he supposedly responded, “Now, now, my good man, this is no time for making enemies.”

Author O. Henry, borrowing lyrics of a popular song, stated, "Turn up the lights, I don't want to go home in the dark." Damon Runyon had this poignant comment: "You can keep the things of bronze and stone and give me one man to remember me just once a year."

Perhaps also wishing to be remembered, artist Pablo Picasso said, “Drink to me.”

Karl Marx, the Prussian-German philosopher and socialist, apparently felt nothing was left to say: "Go on, get out. Last words are for fools who haven't said enough."

I offer these not to seem morbid, but simply as a reminder that, ready or not, one day every one of us will have the “opportunity” to express our last words – regardless of whether they become famous or not.  It seems to me the words we utter as we die are often a reflection of how we’ve lived. The thoughts and values that have bubbled inside of us might just spill out at the last.

There are no better examples, in my opinion, than what we find in the Bible. Hanging from the cross, Jesus mustered up enough breath to proclaim, “It is finished” (John 19:30). His mission had been accomplished; the debt for mankind had been paid.

Then the apostle Paul, writing to his young protégé Timothy while sitting in prison awaiting execution, declared, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

Even though it may be many years from now, what do you think your last words will be? Better yet, what would you like them to be? It’s never too soon to start preparing.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Our Greatest Vanishing Natural Resource

Retirement might include rocking chair time, relaxing and enjoying
the moment, but it can be so much more than that.

We express concern about the environment and the importance of preserving valuable natural resources – fossil fuels, animals, plant life, our rivers and oceans, the atmosphere. And rightfully so. We’re not permanent residents, just sojourners; wouldn’t it be good to leave this place in as good shape as it was when we arrived?

But there’s one steadily vanishing natural resource most people are overlooking. As I noted in a recent post, every day on average 10,000 Baby Boomers are retiring, leaving work and careers that consumed much of their lives. The great question for many of them is, “What now?” Or, “How will I spend my remaining years?”

Boomers have been a controversial generation. We were the most numerous. We’ve also been the greediest, turning consumerism into a way of life. But this generation has also left a huge footprint in many positive ways – innovation, hard work, determination, creativity, imagination. Does retirement mean taking all our experience, wisdom and insights acquired through the years, throwing them in a closet, shutting the door, padlocking it and throwing away the key?

Good stewardship calls us to make our experience and wisdom available to those that come after us – and if they have any sense at all, they’ll take full advantage of what we have to offer.

That doesn’t mean keeping up the breakneck pace we maintained while forging careers. We’ve earned a chance to reap fruit from our labors and slow down a bit, stopping to smell the flowers we used to speed past. But to not avail our successors with lessons life has taught us would amount to extreme selfishness.

Years ago I met a young man looking for someone to mentor him. “Why do you want to be mentored?” I asked. “So I can learn from your mistakes,” he replied without blinking an eye.

That’s good thinking: Someone has said wisdom is found by learning to make good decisions, and the trick to making good decisions is learning from bad ones. Why make all of your own mistakes when you can benefit from ones others have made?

The Bible often speaks positively about the “elders.” These were people that had traveled down life’s road quite a distance and had experienced their share of successes and failures. The apostle Peter, for example, offered this exhortation:

“To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder…. Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers – not because you must, but because you are willing…not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock…. Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble’” (1 Peter 5:1-5).

One way of investing our “natural resources” of wisdom and experience is mentoring – not in a condescending, overbearing manner but relating to another person as a “mentoring partner” (a term David Stoddard and I coined in our book, The Heart of Mentoring). We “old dogs” can still learn new tricks from the younger people we mentor, just as they can learn from us.

We also can volunteer, enlisting to serve and help with causes we feel strongly about. Even though I work full-time, I’ve spent several years volunteeringonce a week at a local hospital, visiting patients that have just undergone open-heart surgery, a procedure I experienced myself more than six years ago. It’s been one way to “comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:4).

Someone once asked me, “If money were no object, what would you love to do?” Yes, we can take vacations, go fishing, play golf, or just sit and read a book without fretting some deadline. But wouldn’t it be meaningful to dedicate some of your time and energy to worthwhile causes?

In the process you could be doing yourself a big favor. Dr. Patricia Boyle, a neuropsychologist and researcher, in a Wall Street Journal article recently stated people that maintain a purpose in life show substantially slower rates of cognitive decline and enjoy longer, healthier lives.

Do you fear suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia in your latter years? Dr. Boyle says studies show setting goals and having a sense of mission give continued meaning to life, and cognitive brain functions are greatly enhanced. Who’s opposed to that?

So find a way to help others – using the gifts and talents God gave you – and at the same time, help yourself.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Who’s Fooling Whom?

Today being April Fool’s Day, I’m happy for this annual celebration of politics in Washington, D.C. Talk about taxation without representation – seems the only thing our legislators represent these days are their own personal interests. So enjoy your special day, revered “leaders”!

Of course, April Fool’s Day isn’t just for politicians. Actually, whenever this day comes around, my thoughts drift back to childhood days when we attempted to trick our friends by making them think their shoes were untied, their zippers were down, or something silly like that. “April Fools!”

But foolishness isn’t always silliness. It can be gravely serious. In fact, it’s amazing how much the Bible talks about fools, foolishness, and folly. There are hundreds of such references. People in Old Testament times must have been especially foolish. The book of Proverbs alone uses those terms dozens of times, never in a positive or flattering sense.

For instance, these passages address the apparently lethal combination of foolishness and speaking:
 “A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions” (Proverbs 18:2).
“A fool’s lips bring him strife, and his mouth invites a beating” (Proverbs 18:6).
“A fool’s mouth is his undoing, and his lips are a snare to his soul” (Proverbs 18:7).

The danger of open-mouth, insert-foot is so pervasive, the Bible suggests, “Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue” (Proverbs 17:28).

One problem with thinking and behaving foolishly is its consequences, which aren’t limited to the perpetrators:
“Better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than a fool in his folly” (Proverbs 17:12).
“A foolish son brings grief to his father and bitterness to the one who bore him” (Proverbs17:25).

The news and entertainment media seem magnets for foolish people. Watching some of the annual awards shows often looks like a parade of fools. Puffed up by arrogance and their own self-importance, celebrities seem to delight in the absurdity of their pontifications. And don’t get me started on radio talk shows!

But what’s the root of foolishness? Do people just wake up some mornings and decide, “Man, I’m going to be stupid today!” No, the issue is deeper than that. It might not be politically correct, but the Bible makes a strong case:

“A man’s own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the Lord” (Proverbs 19:3). In other words, this person makes a mess of his circumstances, and then blames God.

In Psalm 14:1, King David of Israel declared, The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’"

And the apostle Paul makes this scathing assessment: “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Even though they claimed to be wise, they became fools…” (Romans 1:21-22). Hey, I didn’t make that up. That’s what it says.

So if foolishness is such a prevalent human affliction, what’s the cure? The Bible doesn’t hedge on that either: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7). It adds, “The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor” (Proverbs 15:33).

It would seem foolish not to at least give that some consideration. On April Fool’s Day, no sense in trying to be a guest of honor.