The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools. – Herbert Spencer
What does that mean?
This one is a fairly simple truth. If there are no consequences for our actions, there is no incentive to learn. The wise and the foolish both make mistakes. The fool doesn’t learn. The wise, they learn.
If we do something foolish, but are shielded from the normal consequences, how will we learn a lesson? Or will we learn the lesson is to avoid the consequences and get away without having to pay the price?
Without consequences, what incentive is there to learn from our mistakes? In my mind, that is the primary difference between the wise and the fools. Both make mistakes, but one is better at learning from them than the other.
The result of shielding them from the consequences of their folly (or poor decisions) is that they continue as fools. The more people we treat that way, the more people remain unwise, and foolish.
Why are consequences important?
Imagine a world with cartoon physics. You could fall from any height, hit solid pavement, and live. You might see birdies for a few moments, but you’d be right as rain before the next scene. In a world like that, how many people would do stupid things at the edge of a cliff, simply because it wouldn’t matter if they fell?
What about finances? If there was a safety net under you at all times, and you were ‘fixed’ every time you messed up, how would you ever become wise with your money? Decades ago, there was a scandal where government officials were writing checks, and the bank was cashing them, no matter what the balance was in their account. No consequences, no wisdom.
Imagine what would have happened to you if there had been no consequences. Never study, and still get A’s (even if you didn’t know the material). Play a sport, and get a trophy (even if you had no talent, and sat on the bench all season). Steal things, and have the police let you go (even though you were caught red-handed).
What kind of a fool would that person become? What would they think the world owed them? What kind of tantrum would they throw the first time they were called to account, and faced the consequences of their folly? If you have ever seen a child throw a tantrum, that’s what I imagine it would be.
Where can I apply this in my life?
We all complain about consequences. We would do this, if it weren’t for the chance that something else might happen. Invest in a ‘get rich quick’ link you found on the internet? No one will shield you from that folly, and you will learn quickly. You won’t be fooled again.
How about a Nigerian Prince, and the money he is willing to pay you for helping him cash a check? If there were no consequences, how many times would you fall for that scam? How terrible would that be, living your life in so foolish a manner?
While we will all make mistakes, even foolish ones from time to time, by having consequences, we learn quickly. Yes, we are sadder, but we are also wiser. And that is the point of consequences. Not to be so afraid of them that we do nothing, but that we think, plan, and minimize the risks before acting.
Where in your life have you suffered the consequences of your actions (or lack thereof)? In my case, one of the most significant was when I flunked out of college due to a lack of attention to my studies. That was a very foolish thing to do, and I paid a heavy price. I made it right, and did get back in and then graduate, but I won’t make that mistake again.
What have your follies helped you to learn? What was the consequence of each, and how did that help you remember to not do that again? How have you applied those lessons to future actions? You rarely face the exact same situation, but a wise person can see applications for lessons learned which might escape a fool.
How many times have you played with a cactus or a porcupine? I think you get the point. Yeah, it’s a stupid joke, but these are things you usually only do once, right? And that’s what the quote is all about. Learn from your mistakes, and grow wise.
From: Twitter, @FBNStossel
confirmed at : http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/h/herbertspe155826.html
Photo by Corey Taratuta
For more info, see the Wikipedia entry for Teddy Bear Cholla.
- The Brand of Folly – Who Saw It Coming? (thepunchylands.wordpress.com)
- The world and it’s follies (fantasyfed.com)