“Get wisdom, get understanding;
do not forget my words or turn away from them.
Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you;
love her, and she will watch over you.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.
Though it cost all you have, get understanding.”
Proverbs 4:5-7 NIV
This blog post has been a long time coming. In some ways it is the foundation for everything else I write and do. On almost every post I make, I feel like I need to make a disclaimer, which is this:
I do not always know the sources of what I say. Sometimes it is something I heard decades ago, sometimes it is a basic idea I have expanded upon and sometimes it is all me. But the thing is, I ultimately do not feel any of what I say belongs to me.
Wisdom is wisdom. We do not create it, we only discover it and pass it on, therefore I believe no one can really claim it.
Sure, you can copyright a quote, but a quote would be of no value if it did not highlight a truth far beyond the author.
And as the scripture above shows, people have been seeking wisdom and passing it on for thousands of years. Wisdom is different than knowledge and intelligence. Wisdom is about how to live life well. Wisdom is proven right in action. I have seen many extremely intelligent people who can accomplish great tasks and understand complex ideas, but struggle to make wise decisions or live well.
Some people would say that wisdom is the integration of intelligence and experience, but I have often seen the simple and the young able to understand a problem better than those who have a lifetime of complicated theories and baggage cluttering their minds.
I have been fascinated with wisdom since childhood when I read about King Solomon who, when granted one wish from God, requested wisdom to serve his people better. Pleased with the heart of the request, God gladly granted it and Solomon additionally received riches, honor and life as a result of his wisdom.
I imagine I may be a bit annoying at times when I have a saying or cliche that has been passed down for ages to apply to most any situation. But I believe those sayings have been handed down for generations because they have proven true. Often wisdom teaches lessons that are contrary to what we would expect or hard for us to accept. Some people insist on learning these lessons for themselves, but there is an enormous wealth of experience from everyone who came before us, and they usually hand it out generously only to find it rejected. I for one figured it was smart to learn from others so that I could stand on their shoulders and add to the collection.
Another key facet of wisdom is the deep understanding and acceptance of how much you do not know. The usual lack of this understanding is one of the main reasons why teenagers can be so infuriating. Children know there is a vast world of things they need to know that they do not. Adults eventually come back to this awareness. Teenagers are in a sweet spot of being exposed to vast amounts of new information, often knowing things that others do not, and mistaking this for being more enlightened than they really are.
Awareness of how much you do not know is very humbling. I would expect any purveyor of wisdom worth their salt to walk a fine line between knowing the value of the wisdom they have accumulated, while being modest about their own accomplishment.
I mentioned earlier that I often spout trite sayings to apply to various situations. Please bear in mind that I am fully aware that every situation is more complicated, real and heartfelt than some of those sayings may imply. Also, if you pay attention, almost every clever piece of wisdom has a counterpoint.
There are sayings about persistence and sayings about knowing when to quit.
There are sayings about breaking from tradition and reasons to respect it.
There are times to speak out and times to bite your tongue.
…And a time to every purpose under heaven. Turn, turn, turn.
Wisdom is also all about understanding balance and discernment. Because those little tidbits are often one sided, they are excellent for highlighting and simplifying the priorities for decision making, but knowing when they apply and when they don’t is a further role of wisdom.
As you can see, wisdom is complicated. I have been daunted from writing this for a while for many of the reasons above. To write about wisdom is inherently a bit arrogant. To that I say, go ahead and take my words with a grain of salt. If they are valuable it is only because they are true. Wisdom is also a multifaceted and difficult thing to express, so I’m fairly certain I will fail to fully capture all I would want to say on the subject. Oh well, wisdom has recently taught me it is often better to do something that may have flaws than to do nothing at all.
And lastly, I am sure I will not be able to fully convey just how valuable wisdom is, yet I will try.
Above all else, gain wisdom. It will guard your life. Though it may help you gain fame and fortune, it will also teach you those things are not the most important. It will allow you to find happiness and peace, yet give you courage and guidance to give up those things for even greater treasures. If you want a life worth living, my first and simplest advice to you is to seek wisdom.