In the information age that we live it seems that knowledge is valued above wisdom. I don't think this is intentional but is a result of misinformation. Many think that knowledge equals wisdom. This is a fallacy. I have observed that the more information we have access to in our present culture, the less wise we are becoming.
The Oxford Dictionary defines wisdom as the soundness of an action or decision with regard to the application of experience, knowledge, and good judgment. Wisdom has nothing to do with knowledge or even experience but how you apply that knowledge to everyday life. You can be the smartest person or even the oldest, most experienced person in the room, but if you don't know how to use that knowledge and experience to make right choices and decisions, you are far from being wise.
I have heard it said that wisdom is not repeating the mistakes you made when you were young. That is a good measure, but I think wisdom goes a step further. Great wisdom is not making the same mistakes your elders made. According to the verses above from Proverbs, wisdom does not come to you. You must pursue it. You have to go after it if you want to be wise. I'm not saying that knowledge and experience aren't important. What I am saying is that we must put a premium on wisdom above everything for without it, we have nothing.
How do we get wisdom? There is no easy answer to that question and I believe there are no formulas for getting it. I can tell you that you can spot it when you see it. There are a number of people in my life that have modeled true wisdom, Let me share what I have found to be 5 characteristics of truly wise people.
They never stop learning.
This is key and is the common characteristic I have observed. These people are like sponges who soak up everything they can. They aren't passionate about knowing more but how to be better people. That is what sets them apart from everyone else. The moment we stop learning is the moment we become foolish.
They don't claim to be wise.
One thing I have noticed about truly wise people is that they never talk about how wise they are. In fact, they tend to downplay their wisdom, knowledge and experience. They are the first to admit that they don't know everything and don't have all the answers. They ask questions rather than make statements. That takes wisdom!
They don't play the age card.
I have learned from them that wisdom has nothing to do with age. I have met plenty of elderly people who sorely lack wisdom. I have also met many young people that are wise beyond their years. Those who are wise in their older years never assume that they are smarter than those who are younger. Young people who are wise beyond their years never assume that they aren't as smart as those who are older. True wisdom is the ability to learn from those older as well as younger than you. The pitfall of age is thinking others don't know anything. The pitfall of youth is thinking that you know everything. Wisdom breaks through the age barriers.
They embrace failure.
Wisdom is not the result of living a perfect life. True wisdom comes when we learn from the mistakes we make in life. I have heard it said that success is falling down nine times and getting back up ten times. Truly wise people never, ever claim to be perfect. In fact, they are quick to admit their mistakes. Some of the greatest lessons I have learned in life were forged in the furnace of failure.
They aren't intimidated by people who are smarter than they are.
This is a big one. I have observed that truly wise people have embraced the fact that there are always others who are smarter, wiser, and more talented than they are, and they are okay with that. In fact, they go out of their way to surround themselves with others who are better than they are. My tennis coach in high school taught me that if I want to become a great tennis player, I have to practice with someone at least three levels above me. He taught me a lot about wisdom that still impacts me to this day.
Read the verses from Proverbs at the top of this post one more time. Notice that it says, "Though it cost all you have..." Wisdom comes with a price. It doesn't come automatically. You have to work for it. You have to go after it and you have to hold on to it. The price is worth it and it will be your most valued treasure.
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