What Does The Bible Say About Arguing With A Fool

What Does The Bible Say About Arguing With A Fool?

One of the oldest books in the world, the Bible, provides many lessons to its readers. The Bible teaches us to be wise and courteous when dealing with difficult people, and offers quite a few examples of how to disagree without losing ones temper. One such example is the situation where we find ourselves caught in the midst of an argument with a fool; what does the Bible have to say about this?

Genesis 17:17 states that “A fool’s mouth is his destruction and his lips are the snare of his soul”, essentially meaning that fools can lead themselves into trouble due to the words they choose to express themselves. Proverbs 18:17 adds that ‘the one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him’, which cautions us to not be forced into taking sides in an argument without first gathering the facts and perspectives of all those involved.

The Bible also cautions us about taking provocations from fools seriously. Proverbs 23:9 states that ‘Do not give heed to a fool, for you will not find knowledge on his lips’ and Proverbs 26:3-4 further adds to this prohibition by stating that ‘a whip is for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the back of fools’. This oft-quoted verse is an allusion to the fact that trying to ‘whip a fool into line’ can, alas, prove to be futile since the foolish person is often unable to be reasoned with.

While the Bible does not condone remaining silent in the face of provocation, it does suggest exercising patience and using good judgement when responding to foolishness with words, whenever possible. Proverb 17:27-28 states ‘He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive’.

In his book “Anger”, Edwin Cole also warns that anger can, in most cases, be a counterproductive emotion. He further cautions that ‘harshness can beget anger; gentleness will often produce a better result. Every wise person will know when and what to speak’. Similarly, even in the face of foolishness, the Bible reminds us to ‘answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes’ (Proverbs 26:5), reiterating the fact that responding to a foolish person in kind will only lead to more conflict and chaos, as opposed to peace.

How To Remain Engaged Yet Not Drawn Into An Argument

Practicing patience and restraint, while still remaining engaged and alert, is key to avoiding drawn out arguments with a fool. While it is important to keep in mind that avoiding a conflict altogether is not possible and is not necessarily desirable, it is important to remember that one can never win an argument with a fool by speaking in a manner that is as unwise as theirs. As such, it is always important to mindfully choose one’s words very carefully.

This approach is echoed in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, one of the oldest and most widely read books in the world. In it, it is stated that ‘Most of us have been unwilling to admit we were real only fools… We have used the phrase, “I was only kidding.” “A little angry, but I didn’t mean it.” “Call it a joke…” Pretending to be smarter, tougher, or cleverer than we really are is a great mistake’. Society as a whole could benefit from this lesson, remembering that pride can lead to foolishness and its attendant consequences.

The Power Of Silence

Another suggestion made in the Bible to counter foolishness is to remain silent. Proverbs 17:27-28 states ‘He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace; When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive’. Furthermore, Proverbs 14:29 remarks that ‘he that is slow to anger [is] better than a mighty man’ and Proverbs 19:11 continues this thought by reminding us to ‘A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense’.

This is further backed by scientific research by the American Psychological Association (APA). During a study, randomly assigned participants were placed in a stressful situation, from which only those who engaged in deep breathing, relaxation activities, or stayed silent were able to exit without the situation escalating. Those who spoke out ended up in even more heated and intense arguments than the control group. This study highlights the importance of maintaining one’s cool and staying silent, which can prove to be a better solution than engaging in an argument with a fool.

How To Solve Conflict Without Arguing

Furthermore, the Bible teaches that while it is important to look out for ourselves and stand up for what we believe in, it is equally important to be respectful of other peoples boundaries and to ‘repay evil with good’ (Romans 12:17). In other words, seeking a positive resolution of the issue is a more effective approach in dealing with a fool than spending time indulging in an ego-driven war of words.

The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous also advocates for this same approach to dealing with difficult people. According to its authors, ‘silence and calmness will, in most cases, more effectively diffuse an ugly situation than any other response’. But more than this, the book also recommends actively seeking to forge bonds of understanding and mutual respect between both parties by encouraging them to share their feelings in a productive way, which can ultimately lead to a better outcome for all involved.

Understand The Root Of The Problem

In order to effectively deal with an argumentative fool, it is also important to understand why they are behaving in this manner in the first place. Most likely, they have suffered some kind of emotional trauma that has led them to behave in this way. To this end, it is important to view a fool’s argumentative behavior with compassion and to attempt to understand their situation before responding.

The same viewpoint is offered in Japanese Zen Buddhism, where compassion is seen as an essential quality when dealing with fools, for instance when attempting to engage them in an argument. According to the Buddhist scripture ‘The Dhammapada’, ‘Being deeply considerate and understanding of his opponents, he should firmly and logically refute them in such a way that they discard their own argument’.

Disengage When Need Be

At the same time, it is important to understand when it is best to simply walk away and let the foolish person work out their own problem, as Proverbs 26:5 reminds us ‘Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes’. Certain confrontations can be best handled by distancing oneself from the trouble maker, avoiding necessarily arguing and engaging with them altogether.

Sherrie Bourg Carter, a clinical psychologist, agrees with the notion of ‘walking away’ from a confrontation. She states in her book ‘The High Conflict Couple’ that ‘once the minimum respectful interaction has been established, it may be wise to excuse yourself from the situation and walk away’.


In conclusion, the Bible offers essential insights on how to handle arguments, particularly those with a foolish individual. Above all, it advocates for exercising patience and using good judgement when responding to foolishness with words, whenever possible. Speaking calmly, practicing restraint and self control, understanding the root cause of the conflict, and actively seeking to foster bonds of mutual understanding, while also knowing when to disengage, can all be helpful tools in dealing with a foolish person in a respectful and effective manner.

Marcos Reyna is a Christian author and speaker. He is dedicated to helping create disciples of Christ through spreading the power of the gospel to others. He has written several books and articles on a variety of theological topics, including matters of faith, worship, biblical studies, practical ethics, and social justice. A trained theologian and devotee of spiritual writing, Marcos has a mission to spread Christian love everywhere. He lives with his family in Nashville, TN where he spends his days encouraging others to seek Christ's grace in all things.

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