Keeping the faith: Don't be the idiot helping a fool

Ronnie McBrayer
Keeping the Faith

Zen Buddhists use a descriptive phrase that we who are Christian should adopt as our own. The phrase is "Idiot's Compassion." It is an intense desire to help someone who is in need, but this benevolent desire blinds the do-gooder from seeing reality.

The classic example of such behavior is the relationship between the addict and the enabler. Suppose an alcoholic friend comes to you, racked by convulsions and tremors. She is financially used up. She is tormented by her disease. She begs you for a drink. You are persuaded to offer her just one drink to alleviate her immediate pain. You do this, in your own mind, out of mercy.

Yet, you have actually given her more of the poison that will ultimately take her life. This is not mercy. It is foolish cruelty. It is "Idiot's Compassion."

The Hebrew sages had a word for one who could not be helped. They called such a person a "fool." It's a word that means "fat," "heavy" or "thick."

It's someone who is immovable, stuck, unyielding and stubborn. It is the person who refuses to learn and refuses to accept correction. This person cannot be taught — not by people and not by his or her circumstances. It's damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead, and nothing you say or do will make a bit of difference with such a person.

If you don't believe me, go into business with a fool, marry a fool, move in with a fool, work for a fool, and you will discover it to be one of the most maddening experiences of your life. The better part of wisdom is to keep some distance, for a fool will suck you into a never-ending death dance.

I know this can be hard wisdom to accept, especially for those of us who are engineered to "help" others. But when it comes to the fool, there is no fixing them. You might as well try to rescue a drowning man who is still fighting the water. Both the savior and saved will drown in the struggle.

No, I'm not advocating a lack of compassion for those who need some help along life's way. I'm only calling attention to the fact that once you are tangled up with one who refuses to learn or listen, he has a way of making you look and behave like an idiot as well.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, blogger, pastor and author of multiple books. Visit his website at ronniemcbrayer.me.