“There’s no cure for stupidity.”
I don’t know who said it first, but a lot of people have said it since. There are even some takeoffs on the original observation:
“There’s no vaccine for stupidity.”
“Stupidity is terminal.”
“You can’t fix stupid.”
“Stupidity is the only universal, capital crime.”
I think you get the idea. Fortunately, this is just not true. The Bible’s Book of Proverbs holds out hope again and again for even the most foolish among us – and we are wise to realize that the most foolish among us is ME.
Those who have come to realize that they are “simple” (naïve or stupid) are constantly invited by the voice of God – speaking through the Proverbs – to come and receive God’s counsel and become wise (see especially Proverbs 1:20-33). There is a cure for stupidity: it’s the Word and Wisdom and Revelation of the gracious God Himself.
Many have spoken of the all-too painful painful progression from (1) not knowing what you don’t know, (2) knowing what you don’t know and eventually, hopefully, (3) knowing what you do know.
The other “catch” is that life is short.
Leading a church, for instance, is so difficult – though I’m not going to presumptuously say that it’s “the hardest job in the world” – that it takes almost a lifetime to learn to do it well. The sad joke among many pastors is that by the time we are wise enough to do the job well we’re too tired to do it. Would that we could be reincarnated with all the wisdom we’ve gained and the energy we had when we were young!
God graciously gives those of us who don’t want to be stupid, or who are tired of being stupid, abundant help through His Word and His Spirit.
But we also are counseled in the Bible – again, this advice is found most intensively in the Book of Proverbs – to seek counsel from people. Wise people. Older people. Multiple people. Diverse people (Proverbs 11:14).
Knowing that there are so many individuals whose wisdom we are able to tap into, it deepens my sorrow to see the servants of God: pastors, church board members, church staff members, unofficial church leaders, and “everyday church members,” making foolish mistakes which cause endless pain both to themselves and to others.
They don’t have to be sinful mistakes to be extremely harmful – that’s a category in and of itself – I’m just talking (today) about stupid mistakes.
I’ve made enough of them myself to write a whole series of books, none of which anyone would want to buy.
So here’s my plea – and it’s a major cure for stupid: Ask for help, early. Please!
- Don’t wait until conflict has hardened your heart, blinded your eyes and clouded your judgment.
- Don’t wait until good people have taken public positions on intractable issues.
- Don’t wait until alliances have been formed, battle lines have been drawn, and favors have been called in.
- Don’t wait until innocent communications have been re-interpreted, old conversations have been repurposed and scarred-over wounds have been re-opened.
Please! Ask for help, early.
Church members can ask for help early when they are concerned about their pastor, pastors, or church board. Be careful who you ask and why you ask. Don’t ask for help as a thinly veiled form of gossip. Don’t ask for help from the person who will tell you what you want to hear. Ask for help from that truly godly, mature person you know, who loves you enough to tell you the truth, and who is far removed from the scene, like a former pastor of yours from a previous church or your missionary friend in Botswana.
Church board members (of all varieties) can ask for help early when they’re concerned about the leadership of the pastor. Again, ask a highly respected pastor friend or your missionary friend in Bolivia. As a church leader, you may also have the luxury of being able to ask a regional denominational leader. When should you ask for help? You know I’m going to say early; sooner rather than later.
Pastors can ask for help early. I had a pastor/mentor, old enough to be my father, whom I turned to again and again over the years for advice. I didn’t always agree with his counsel, but for the most part, year after year, his help was priceless. Eventually I learned to ask several counselors instead of just one. But I thank God for that man, who has now crossed the finish line and is rejoicing in heaven. I’m just trying to be for other pastors what Pastor George Cable was for me.
My only regret with regard to this brother and father figure? You guessed it: There were times when I should have asked for his help earlier.