October 1, 2013

Wisdom Words

No doubt about it, we live in a knowledge-saturated culture. We can easily access information about any conceivable topic 24/7/365, usually with only one or two clicks of a mouse or thumb. And as a result, we tend to believe we are a wise people. After all, if wisdom and knowledge are synonymous, our society is replete with it.

The problem is that wisdom and knowledge are not synonyms. Knowledge is information – facts and opinions we’ve already learned or can discover about a topic. As a culture, we’re overwhelmed with an ability to gain knowledge. But knowledge is only one part of wisdom.

From the beginning of time and across cultures, wisdom has actually been defined as “applied knowledge.” Thus, wisdom entails much more than simple acquisition of information. In fact, in order to be wise, a person must take two crucial steps beyond gaining knowledge:

1.     Parse through all the information to discover the nuggets of truth therein, discarding the rest;
2.     Choose to apply that truth to one’s life in order to achieve a specific goal or purpose.

When we look at it that way, it’s fair to say that our culture – and many of us individually – are actually foolish most of the time. For one thing, we don’t relish taking the time to weed through information. We also live in a time when we’ve been (incorrectly) led to believe that truth is relative, not absolute; thus, we struggle to find truth even when we seek it. And, finally, we have a hard time wanting to diligently work toward the changes that application of truth would necessitate, often preferring the path of least resistance instead.

But if we don’t apply the truths found within the knowledge at our fingertips, we cannot gain wisdom. If we choose to discount wisdom in our own lives, we cannot adequately facilitate its acquisition in our children. And, chillingly, the prophet Hosea told us the end result of that decision when he warned that, “ [the] people perish from a lack of wisdom.”

Obviously, that concept warrants serious consideration in our own lives as adults. And we can’t legitimately expect our children to be wise if we’re unwilling to engage in the process ourselves; “do as I say, not as I do” falls flat every time. But it’s crucial for our kids and for our culture that we help children grow toward wisdom with us; we can’t wait until we “have it all together” before we begin to address it with our children.

One simple technique we can use in many situations with our kids is to actively walk them through wisdom-growing questions:

1.     What do you know about this situation?
2.     Of everything you know, what one or two truths can you pull out?
3.     How can you put that truth into practice right now?
4.     What can I do to help?

Working through this process will cause kids to pause and think. Doing it on a regular basis will develop in them a habit of mind that will enable them to begin asking themselves these questions automatically, and that will grow them toward wisdom over time. Given Hosea’s words as well as the truth that wisdom is a genius quality, isn’t that something we’d want to do?

Photo Credit: mliu92


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