The Cleverest of All: A Fyodor Dostoyevsky Quote

fyodor dostoyevsky quote the cleverest of all

“The cleverest of all, in my opinion, is the man who calls himself a fool at least once a month.”

Once a month? I thought calling yourself a fool (or idiot) only a few times a week was doing pretty well as an adult! And that is part of being an adult, isn’t it? Admitting that you were wrong and/or that you made a mistake?

Hmmm… Can anyone think of someone who seems utterly incapable of admitting that he/she made a mistake? (One might stick out…)

The Cleverest Man (or Not)

I think there are really two possibilities here:

1. The person knows inside that he/she made a mistake but is afraid of losing face by admitting it.


2. The person honestly does not (and will not) accept that he/she made a mistake.

The first one is sad but understandable. It can be embarrassing and even frightening to admit that you made a mistake – will the person I’m talking to think less of me? Will I lose out on the job or the opportunity? Will it give the other person power and put me in a weaker position?

Despite the fact that being caught in a lie almost always does more damage than admitting our mistakes, I think most of us have done this at one point or another in our lives – especially in a confrontation when winning can easily begin to feel more important than telling the truth. You know, when you’re caught up in the moment, and you’re emotionally invested in the situation.

That’s about as human as making the mistake in the first place. Of course, as adults, we all know that we should go back later (once tempers cool) and fess up, and, yes, that often happens (explicitly or implicitly). At least, it happens if we value the relationship and want it to continue…

The second possibility is much more extreme. It takes an unhealthy dose of arrogance combined with a huge ego. So… narcissism. Maybe, even a god complex. In other words, not someone most people want to be around. Picture it: “I want to hang out with that one guy that always thinks he’s right even when he’s been proven wrong repeatedly!”

Said no one ever.

So let’s consider the converse of this quote. If the cleverest man is the one who calls himself a fool at least once a month, then the dumbest man is the one who never calls himself a fool. In other words, never admits his mistake(s). Ever.

I like this quote better all the time. Don’t you?

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