He that believeth all, misseth; he that believeth nothing, hits not.

George Herbert, “Proverbs” in The Complete English Works, 268.

This one is a puzzle. Here’s what I think is going on:

I think the saying is using a target metaphor to describe two different types of people who “miss the mark.” One is the gullible person, the other is the hardened skeptic. Both of these extremes will lead to error and foolishness. The gullible person will be duped into misery. The skeptic closes themselves off to truth, goodness, and beauty because they have trust issues.

As I’ve worked with lots of people over the years, I’ve run into both types. I try to help the naive or gullible person do a better job of vetting their sources, prioritizing the best voices, and learning to be more discerning. Their greatest strength is their greatest weakness. They trust well, but have trouble deciding whom to trust. The gullible needs to listen well.

The skeptic is more challenging, because there’s a long on-ramp to earn their trust–if that is still possible. The task is helping this person recognize that it’s impossible to live a flourishing life in this world without trust. We trust our cars, we trust airplanes, we trust that the food in the grocery store isn’t poisoned–we have to trust. What else are we trusting without scrutiny? And have we been unfair to blindly trust our anesthesiologist, without giving a similar amount of trust to other persons who hold expertise that may be just as valuable to our lives (like, say, a wise parent, teacher, or pastor)? The skeptic needs to listen well.

So whether we lean more toward gullibility or skepticism–hopefully we all can learn to be more discerning so that we may consistently hit the target.