The Danger of Whataboutery

“If you see a generality and immediately think of exceptions, you’ve absorbed the spirit of the age.” (Michael Foster)

grey concrete statue under blue sky during daytime

Consider the Book of Proverbs. It packs a punch with pithy one-liners. It doesn’t entertain exceptions. It doesn’t let sophistication get in the way of making a point. It traffics in proverbial truisms.

This is the typical language of Biblical wisdom: Simplified summaries of creational norms. Redemptive patterns are expressed, not in a tome of nuance, but in the terse equivalent of a tweet.

But the heart has its way of rebelling against wisdom:

“What about… ?”

Whataboutery is suffocating. It prevents us from breathing in the proverbial language of wisdom.

Whataboutism dulls our receptivity to straightforward wisdom. Claiming to be wise, we become fools as we stiff-arm proverbial wisdom with:

  • Nitpicking, persnickety, fussy pedantry
  • Love for the praise of man; cringing over what others think
  • Fretting over excess or misuse of truth
  • Missing the “moment” or spirit of the age
  • Inability to appreciate appropriate cultural expressions of creational norms
  • Inability to appreciate courage or boldness; cowardice
  • Using abuse or trauma as an excuse

What modern wisdom teachers on adolescence, parenting, finance, work ethic, fitness, manhood, womanhood, marriage, church, and evangelism are we disregarding because we have no esteemed place for the language of bold proverbial wisdom?

And how many wisdom teachers decide to stay silent because the internet smothers them with whataboutery?

Be transformed by the renewal of your mind. Absorb Proverbs, the Sermon on the Mount, and the Epistle of James. Train your mind to be receptive to language of wisdom.

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7)