He didn’t suffer fools gladly.
That’s an old expression with biblical origins that is used to describe a person who didn’t tolerate well those who he thought were fools – or at least not as smart, as informed or as well-versed as he.
To many, this is an honorable trait, as New York Times columnist David Brooks points out. But, as Brooks says, good manners permit one to suffer fools gladly.
Manners have gotten a bad rap over the years, just as political correctness has.
Brooks points out that when someone who doesn’t suffer fools gladly humiliates someone, he can look to be the bigger fool.
Let’s take it a step further. Suppose you worked for someone who did not suffer fools gladly. How would you feel when he didn’t show the necessary patience as you were learning your job? Sometimes, the fool you don’t suffer gladly is merely someone who disagrees with you. We’ve seen in Washington, D.C., in recent times, how not suffering fools gladly can actually prevent things from getting done.
Speaking of Washington, D.C., Maureen Dowd, another New York Times columnist, pointed out the differences between President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. Biden relishes negotiating deals on Capitol Hill, while the president has little patience for it, Dowd says. Apparently, the president does not suffer fools gladly, if Dowd’s assessment is correct. Biden, on the other hand, loves to.
It’s been said that good people have three characteristics, among many. They have humility, integrity and generosity. Perhaps one can have integrity and not suffer fools gladly. But it would be difficult to be humble and generous, and not suffer fools gladly.
It’s OK to be confident. It’s certainly OK, even desirable, to think well of yourself – on the inside. But being humble means you don’t flaunt that confidence by making others feel less worthy. You do your thing well, and give others credit.
Being generous means that you are blessed to have what you have, and are willing to share with those who may not have what you have. The more you give, the more you get in most situations.
Go back to the employer-employee relationship. A humble, generous employer with integrity is someone everyone would want to work for. He shows patience with the employee when needed. He appreciates the efforts his employees give him. He generously pays for those efforts. He realizes that without those employees, he would not be where he is. Because of his integrity, he always does the right thing, regardless of the effect on him.
He realizes his employees may not know as much as he does, because they are not in position to know. But they are not fools to be suffered.
He is not just being polite, and showing good manners by being humble, generous and having integrity. He’s being a good business person and a great employer. Those characteristics greatly improve his chances of success.
He also believes that his success depends on how much he helps others succeed. If you are a humble, generous person with integrity, and have the desire to help others like you succeed, visit That could be the vehicle to fulfill your dream of helping others, thus helping yourself.
It takes many to make a world. It’s OK to know something that someone else doesn’t know. Just don’t be afraid to share what you know. Share it with humility, integrity and generosity. Suffer “fools” gladly, then give them credit for accomplishments. If you don’t, you could look like the bigger fool.


“You didn’t build that.”
That quote, by U.S. President Barack Obama in the summer of 2012, implied that entrepreneurs had plenty of help building their businesses. It was taken wildly out of context.
Related to that, New York Times columnist David Brooks, in August 2012, fielded this question from Confused in Columbus: “How much of my success is me, and how much of my success comes from forces outside of me?” In other words, “who built me?”
Brooks answers by saying: “As you go through life, you should pass through different phases in thinking about how much credit you deserve.”
He basically says that younger folks have full control to build their lives as they see fit. Some call that sowing wild oats. But it’s more than having a good time, and doing things you might regret later. It’s a sense of starting fresh to build “you.”
As you reach middle age, Brooks says, you are more governed by circumstances. Your part in your life may be more navigational through those circumstances, than creative. As you hit your 50s and 60s, says Brooks, you start to see relationships as more important than individuals. Who influenced you through your life? Who helped you? Steve Jobs’ greatest accomplishment was building a company, not a product, Brooks says.
In your elder years, you are struck by how you got there. You are struck by the astonishing importance of luck – whom you met, where you worked, Brooks says.
Brooks concludes that you should start life in complete control of what you do, and will be, and you should finish life recognizing that you probably got better than you deserved.
The latter statement probably refers to humility, not that you “didn’t deserve” to be where you are.
We all deserve greatness, but it must be achieved, not just received. Some obstacles will befall us on the road to greatness. Those who go around, climb over or go through — take your pick – those obstacles will eventually see greatness. Hopefully, you will go through those obstacles without hurting others – in fact, you will help others. The process of becoming great is as important as the greatness itself.
Also, greatness comes in many forms. As you progress through life, you will find not only the type of greatness you wish to achieve, but also how you wish to achieve it.
You will learn that you cannot do it alone. Help others as others have helped you. Parents, teachers, mentors, spouses and others who become part of your life will play a large part in building you. Be grateful to them, long before your elder years.
You play a big part in building you. Other people and things help along the way. Sometimes we have control of those people and things. Sometimes we don’t. We come to realize that people, working alone, can only do so much. We realize that this is not meant to discourage us, it’s meant to motivate us, and instill gratitude within us.
Don’t let circumstances discourage you. Let them show you what you need to do to achieve greatness. Have faith that you can achieve what you want to achieve, but will need and want help along the way.
In fact, you deserve to see potentially a great life for you. Visit
You may start as the architect to build you, but will use many subcontractors as you mature. The entrepreneur in you knows he can’t do everything alone. You can HELP build you, but you need the proper context for the complete you to emerge.