Suffer fools gladly. You read that phrase often about prominent people who don’t suffer fools gladly. It’s often taken as a compliment by them. suggesting that a person is so smart he has trouble tolerating people who are far below his own high standard. It’s used to describe people who have the guts to tell idiots what he really thinks. It sounds OK, but when you actually see people in the act of not suffering fools gladly, it looks rotten.
The philosopher Andre Comte-Sponville argues that “politeness is the first virtue, and the origin perhaps of all the others.”
Surprisingly, the phrase originally came from William Tyndale’s 1534 translation of the Bible. In it, Paul was ripping into the decadent citizens of Corinth for turning away from his own authoritative teaching and falling for a bunch of second-rate false apostles. “For ye suffer fools gladly,” Paul says with withering sarcasm, “seeing ye yourselves are wise.”
Many people handle fools well; members of the clergy and many great teachers. I don’t give myself high marks always, but I would never knowingly put anyone in an uncomfortable position.
G. K. Chesterton had the best advice on suffering fools gladly. He put emphasis on the word gladly. “A man and a woman cannot live together without having against each other a kind of everlasting joke. Each has discovered that the other is a fool, but a great fool. This largeness, this grossness and gorgeousness of folly is the thing which we all find about those with whom we are in intimate contact; and it is the one enduring basis of affection, and even of respect.”
At the end of the day, only kindness matters.