Knowledge or Wisdom? It’s all the same…right?

What is it to be wise?  How do you picture wisdom? Maybe it’s the white haired sage sitting alone pondering life at the top of a mountain or perhaps a solitary, noble owl searching the darkness.  Is wisdom really an old guy wrapped in a sheet or a nocturnal predator?  If I accumulate a lot of information and facts am I wise?   This definition could describe my husband who is a rock star at trivia night because he has a wide spectrum of knowledge (or a wealth of useless information) but does it make him wise?  Wisdom according to Merriam-Webster is the “ability to discern inner qualities and relationships:  insight.  Good sense:  judgement.” So part knowledge, but also knowing how to judge that data’s validity and purpose.  My husband having the knowledge that I have gained a few pounds and yet not mentioning that a diet is in order is wisdom.  

Words of wisdom can come from many sources, some unexpected.  Have you ever heard compelling, life altering truth from the lips of a child?  I know I have.   You could argue that a child has not had the opportunity to gain much knowledge.  Yet through their innocence and unrestrained view of the world they come up with some amazing insights.  The following is a great example from an article in Huffington Post where some parents shared their kid’s pearls of wisdom:  “When I asked my son (5 years old) how his day was, he said it was awesome.  I asked him what made it so awesome—his response was ‘because I wanted it to be.’”  Now that is a kid with some wisdom!   

One of the most famous sources for wisdom is the Book of Proverbs which was written by Solomon, Son of David; the king of Israel. When God appeared to Solomon in a dream and asked him what he wanted, Solomon asked for wisdom.  Smart answer!  God was so pleased with this request that he granted Solomon great wisdom.  An example of his wise decision making is in 1 Kings 3: 16-21.  Cliff Notes:  Two women each have a baby.  One baby dies and one of the women claims the dead baby is not hers and the other woman stole her baby.  Solomon’s solution is to cut the living baby in half so the women could share the baby.  One woman says fine (seriously!), the other begs him to give the whole child to the other woman.  Solomon determines correctly the true mother is the one who wants to spare the life of the child. Talk about a creative solution!  Full disclosure, Solomon made some pretty unwise decisions later in life when he took his eyes off God but the teachings in Proverbs really focus on gaining and nurturing wisdom.   

Proverbs 4:5-7  

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.  

I have to say that I like that wisdom is personified as a woman.  Would I rather be knowledgeable or wise?  To me, wisdom is both.  Wisdom is discerning how to use the knowledge and experiences I have gathered.  It is looking at the whole picture; when to charge forward and when to hold back.  In essence:  just because I can, doesn’t mean I should.  In addition, being wise is knowing what you do not know.  As Shakespeare said, “The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.” When we start to think of ourselves as “Super Wise” it is probably the time to take a step back and do a little discerning.  Unfortunately, I have found that some days I can be pretty wise and others not so much.  It does not seem to be one and done but a continuing pursuit to get wisdom and understanding. 

How do you define wisdom?  Where do you turn to gain wisdom? Please share your stories, I would love to learn from you!   


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