“The fool’s way is right in his own eyes, but the one who listens to advice is wise.”
Folly lacks perspective. Young, inexperienced people err because they do not know there is any other way. The simple person just does not know.
Of course, my own way seems right to me. If it didn’t seem right, I wouldn’t be going this way. We do what to us is logical. Our “way”—Alfred Adler called it “lifestyle”—is our unique creation, the “way that seems right,” that is, the style of living that seems to run straight to the goal I am pursuing.
It may seem right because we have not heard the differing perspectives, the alternate explanations, the competing theories and the critical observations of other people. But that is not the only reason. A fool will not listen to advice. Someone may tell him, but he stays in his foolish way or, if he repents from his folly, he returns to the wrong way.
The fool does not want to hear the criticisms, rebukes and admonitions of others. At its extreme it is called narcissism: a self-protective disorder that we wrap around ourselves because our self-image is so fragile, delicate and afraid that we can’t stand for anyone to contradict us. This “way” seems right. It insulates us; but it also isolates us from intimacy with others and we live in our castle, protected from the reality around us. If we are well-off enough, we can hold out in our castle/prison for a long time. And some live there lifelong.
The person who listens to advice is not wise because he knows everything. This is not the idea. That is the lie the narcissist tells himself: “I know everything I need to know.” The wise person knows he doesn’t. But he has two character qualities: courage and humility. He has the “courage to be imperfect.” He is not afraid to try things and make mistakes or to do a task imperfectly at first. He is humble enough to accept the criticism and correction of others who may be further along the trail than he.
This is the principle behind internships: a student with sufficient academic knowledge in a field begins to practice under the supervision of a senior person. They do well enough not to cause harm, but they are not yet skilled enough to practice on their own. For that they need coaching, criticism and correction.
A wise person has enough confidence to try, but also the courage to accept criticism, make corrections and keep going. A fool does not. It is the difference between a hard heart and a soft heart.
Behind the world-view of the wise is the One who runs it: the Lord. And the wise person believes that God encourages us to try, lovingly corrects us and then re-encourages us to get back in the game and try again.
Don’t be afraid to try; but don’t be afraid to be criticized, either.