I’ve heard it said many times “I do not suffer fools gladly”. The phrase has often made me feel uncomfortable though I’ve never been able to properly articulate why.
The phrase always insinuates that the speaker thinks of himself on a higher plane, either intellectually or morally so. But I always felt that the phrase showed a huge level of intolerance for someone with less knowledge and therefore showed ingratitude and arrogance for the knowledge that he himself possessed.
Today, as I was reading “The Purification of the Heart” by Hamza Yusuf, I stumbled across this paragraph:
“People of knowledge are in greater danger of arrogance than anyone else”; this is because the knowledge they have attained may lead them to feelings of superiority.
The second type of arrogance is in displaying contempt and scorn towards others. Once a man saw an old woman calling to the Prophet in a “boisterous manner, yet the Prophet stopped to speak with her, showing no sign of annoyance.
When the man saw the Prophet’s calm reaction, he said, “Muḥammad is a man unlike the kings of other lands.” It is a marvel how some people act arrogantly because of their perceived piety, while the Prophet, “the best of creation,” remained humble.”
I could not have articulated it any better.
I should think it better for the world if we all had a larger appetite for fools, for fools are people too and if we see within them some deficiency, it should remind us to be grateful for what knowledge and wisdom has been bestowed upon us. Just as God made you and bestowed upon you some glimpses of knowledge, so too did He make others, perhaps to test your patience, tolerance and gratitude.
Next time I find myself thinking someone is a fool or hear someone say they don’t suffer fools gladly, I hope I remember to remind myself and others that we are all fools and ignorant to some degree and will always remain so. It is only by the grace and mercy of God that our blindspots are sometimes removed, our hearts cracked open and a little light is let in to illuminate us to a lesser known secret of this life.
May we all humble ourselves to the fountain of knowledge that still awaits us and find more tolerance and patience for those with larger blind patches than ourselves.
Before God, we are all fools.
So, more fool me.