Recently, while reading a book, I came across this quote and it really resonated with me:
We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us. —MARCEL PROUST
Wisdom is a subject that is often written about and often seems to be associated with age and experience; at the same time, I wonder if we really know much about true wisdom. One can have the time/age, have experience, be educated, have many degrees, have street smarts and common sense and all sorts of other categories of information and experience and yet have no real wisdom. It seems to me that wisdom is one of those things we know when we see it and that we know more about what to look for over time, rather like the legal definition of pornography to use perhaps an odd analogy.
Here’s another quote, from a science fiction book just because I liked it …
“I find that wisdom is understanding what you don’t know and then looking for answers, rather than pretending to know and bluffing your way through.”Benji the Elder in Unbonded by D.K. Holmberg
But what is wisdom?
One definition is:https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/wisdom
In my upbringing and tradition, looking to the Bible for insight is a part of evaluating something significant. The story of Solomon and the two prostitutes fighting over a baby when another child had died when the mother literally smothered her child by accident, comes to mind quickly. Here’s the story from the New American Standard version of the Bible (NASB) …
16 Then two women who were prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. 17 The one woman said, “Pardon me, my lord: [a]this woman and I live in the same house; and I gave birth to a child [b]while she was in the house. 18 And it happened on the third day after I gave birth, that this woman also gave birth to a child, and we were together. There was no stranger with us in the house, only the two of us in the house. 19 Then this woman’s son died in the night, because she lay on him. 20 So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from beside me while your servant was asleep, and she laid him at her breast, and laid her dead son at my breast. 21 When I got up in the morning to nurse my son, behold, he was dead! But when I examined him closely in the morning, behold, he was not my son, whom I had borne!” 22 Then the other woman said, “No! For the living one is my son, and the dead one is your son.” But [c]the first woman said, “No! For the dead one is your son, and the living one is my son.” So they spoke before the king.
23 Then the king said, “[d]The one says, ‘This is my son who is living, and your son is the dead one’; and [e]the other says, ‘No! For your son is the dead one, and my son is the living one.’” 24 And the king said, “Get me a sword.” So they brought a sword before the king. 25 And the king said, “Cut the living child in two, and give half to the one and half to the other.” 26 But the woman whose child was the living one spoke to the king, for [f]she was deeply stirred over her son, and she said, “Pardon me, my lord! Give her the living child, and by no means kill him!” But the other woman was saying, “He shall be neither mine nor yours; cut him!” 27 Then the king replied, “Give [g]the first woman the living child, and by no means kill him. She is his mother.” 28 When all Israel heard about the judgment which the king had [h]handed down, they feared the king, because they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to [i]administer justice.https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Kings%203%3A16-28&version=NASB
I have read this story many times during my life, but it absolutely resonates so differently now that I’m a mom and that we are still often co-sleeping with our boys. Thinking about a mom who smothered her child by accident and then attempted to switch babies and allow another mom to experience that horror makes me a little crazy. How in the world could someone do that to someone else? And then she was ok with cutting the living baby in half?! No wonder it was clear who was the actual mother.
And now I’m thinking that objectivity may be a part of wisdom. Sometimes we’re too close to a situation and perhaps too triggered to see the larger issues. Someone who isn’t emotionally engaged could perhaps then see those issues and a pathway through to a solution. And I think this is why certain people who are calm and measured and show just enough empathy to ensure that everyone feels heard are sought out to resolve issues. I say just enough because I do think too much empathy might be an issue with objectivity.
And so my conclusion is that wisdom is a combination of so many things and thus is hard to define. Over time, we can obtain wisdom and obtain the ability to see more clearly and, perhaps gain the ability to be more objective for ourselves and others. If you have a wise and experienced friend in your life, hang onto them — they are worth their weight in gold!