Wisdom matters. It changes life for the better, helping us flourish in work and relationships. The wise make peace with their circumstances and who they are, lessening trauma. Opportunities to enhance their environment animate them. They express care for human welfare, reducing poverty of various kinds.
Wisdom Works through People
Theories of wisdom stem from how it takes shape in people. Wisdom’s a personal quality that edges us towards success. So, here are two portraits of wisdom, imagined as a man and a woman. What’s significant is not their gender but the forms of their wisdom.
Professor Wisdom eases himself into his desk chair. It’s autumn, and glancing through the window he spies a neighbour’s two boys kicking leaves along the pavement. He smiles, and remembers which one has a birthday next week. His mind wanders to the world he knows through research and travel. He still wants to learn and to share. And so, he focusses and begins to write.
Miss Wisdom sells handmade textiles in North London. Her business prospers, and she loves engaging with friends and strangers. She hosts a Sunday forum for a dozen or more, a feast of croissants and conversation. Knowing the pain and greyness in life, she helps people find inspiration. Once a week she spends an hour at her local tube station, handing out leaflets to all who’ll take one. Grateful for her blessings, she shares her wisdom with passion and gentleness.
Both portraits have deep roots. Many stories include a wise elder, whether Merlin, Gandalf or Dumbledore. He is generally kind, knowledgeable and wants to act well in the world. The Bible’s Book of Proverbs features wisdom as an outgoing woman. Such characters thrive and yearn to pass on the joys they’ve discovered.
As a personal quality that adds value to life, wisdom matters. Its form differs in each of us, depending on our nature and skills. But we need to cultivate it. As we do so, it moves us towards life’s treasures. It also improves situations for those whose lives we touch.
Wisdom Matters: it Does Good in the World
Psychologically, wisdom is a team in which each member has different abilities. By pooling their resources, members achieve more than they could alone. Their names include knowledge, intuition, intellect and compassion. They work together to produce an outcome that benefits the self and society.
Some emphasise the reflective side of wisdom more than its practical nature. Both are important, but without action wisdom is weak. It’s not enough to make sense of situations in which we’re involved. We must use our understanding to exercise a healthy influence or to act for the good.
Passion for what’s good motivates wisdom’s goals and actions. The wise explore life’s opportunities with enthusiasm. They labour for the welfare of a community, or perhaps for an ideal like justice or healing. In either case, they find a focus and commit to it. Energised by their passion, they pursue a dream with sweat and possibly tears. Such wisdom matters because it acts well in the world.
The waters of wisdom’s river flow freely between its banks, nourishing plants and animals. If emotion surges and causes a flood that muddies lives, wisdom is lost. But a river shaping its course as it heads towards its destination, avoids hurtful behaviour. It disappoints any who try to stop it and strengthens all who love it.
Acting wisely to create blessing can bring us bruises or weariness. Following a wise path is hard. We need passion and perseverance to keep going. In the face of distress and life’s uncertainties, wisdom gives the last word to hope and love.
Wisdom Matters: it Makes Fruitful Decisions
Wise decisions make life better for us and others. Where wisdom is lacking, elements of injustice and harshness spoil our actions. People become resentful or lose faith in us, a sign of our folly. Thus, wisdom is ethical. At the least, it fosters relationships and shows consideration.
Fruitful decisions emerge from adequate understanding. Intuition offers a quick conclusion, a glimpse of present circumstances in the light of previous experience. Often, it needs checking with a more considered approach, perhaps weighing options. Yet this has its dangers. If we lose ourselves in an information jungle, we disable decision making. Wisdom shows us prime aspects of what we know. It uses knowledge, values and insights to determine a fruitful way forward.
Knowledge is a key to decision making. A new situation or area of expertise requires us to learn the basics. Wisdom grows as our mind connects facts and sifts opinions to form a meaningful pattern. We then process new information quickly and are creative with what we know. Thus, a joiner’s wisdom, based on years of experience in working wood, gives skill in making intuitive decisions about a new project.
Each person’s knowledge and skills are unique. No one knows it all. No one is wise in every aspect of life. The wise appreciate their limits. They look beyond their inner world to learn from others. Such wisdom matters because it produces decisions that reap a reward.
A range of skills is necessary for decision making. The wise are curious about the world, and pay attention to what’s happening around them. They try to understand individuals, including themselves, and appreciate that each person is different. They may struggle inwardly over complex situations, but persevere with seeking solutions that work for all.
Wisdom Matters It Embraces Meaning and Mystery
Many find meaning through loving relationships or advancing a cause. As long as they believe their lives have direction or value, this feels enough.
Wisdom matters because it detects wider meanings. It sees rhythms in nature, and senses a pattern of meaning in life as a whole. It asks deep questions, including about suffering and death. Wrestling with such issues increases awareness that life is not centred on us. Thus, it shapes our attitude to the self and the world.
Humanity has scarcely begun to explore knowledge’s universe. Curiosity brings insight but our ability to know has limits. We may have good self-understanding whilst also being a mystery to ourselves. Many secrets elude even the wisest and most determined. There’s more to life than we imagine.
Appreciating mystery helps us realise where we stand in relation to everything else. Do we belong to the world or to God as much as we belong to ourselves? Wisdom teaches the humility of gratitude, a way of seeing that calls us to work for universal good.
Many people’s experience of mystery is that it gives. We receive fresh insights or awake to a truth that impacts on us. Engaging with mystery delights or inspires to action. It points to an adventure or challenges us to meet a need. Four revelations across a fifty-year period re-shaped my life, initially inwardly. In a low key way, we experience such moments more often than we imagine.
One way of resolving life’s meaning is to find it in God. According to the Bible, God is both beyond human understanding and a companion to those who trust him. The wisdom beyond our reach is open to God. Thus, to rely on God’s love and follow his ways is wise. It’s also a source of wisdom. While questions always remain, believers experience God as a generous Giver.
Wisdom matters because it keeps us in tune with material and spiritual realities. On the one hand, we can develop values, skills and insights that increase our wisdom. On the other, life’s uncertainties affect us in ways we can’t control. Wisdom helps us to flourish, to negotiate complex situations both ethically and in our own best interests. Looking wider, it shows us that life’s meaning is not centred in us, and so enables us to grow in love.
To learn more about me please click here