Wisdom – the word conjures up mental images of an old man sitting cross legged atop a snowy mountain, doling out advice to all who seek it. But how does one obtain wisdom? It is spoken about in religion and secularism, it is a topic of modern psychology, but is wisdom really attainable, or is it a “chasing after the wind.” So how does one become wise? If wisdom is a virtue of strength, how can one become strong if they aren’t wise?
To be honest, wisdom it is often searched for, but rarely ever obtained. It has been the object of desire spoken about in the book of Enoch to the writings of King Solomon and also in the New Testament Spoken about by Jesus and written about by the Apostle Paul and the Disciple James. James said in James 1:5 (ESV), “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”
Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.”Ecclesiastes 9:18 (NIV)
Religion and Christianity don’t have a corner on this market. Ancient Greek philosophers had more than a passing interest in wisdom. The ancient Greek ideas and philosophy have trickled down to modern psychology; Is having just a secular view of wisdom really wise, or do we need to have a religious view as well?
Wisdom is the perception into humanity and what it means to have a good life. So that means that wisdom encompases: Social intelligence, maturity, creativity, exceptional level of human functioning, personal and interpersonal competence, the ability to listen and evaluate and give advice. Wisdom also represents a superior level of knowledge; wisdom encompasses knowledge and with that extraordinary scope, depth, measure and balance.
So is Wisdom just knowledge? It might seem so, but actually it is more than knowledge. “Wisdom is the application of knowledge towards the achievement of the common good.” Knowledge is the foundation of wisdom, but knowledge is not wisdom. For Instance, it is knowledge to know and understand that a tomato is a fruit, however, it is wisdom that tells you not to put a tomato in a fruit salad. It can be said that wisdom is the practical application of knowledge in real world scenarios.
So how does one become wise – I mean truly wise and not just a specialist in a certain field or an expert? Wisdom comes from the search for truth, intellectual knowledge and practical knowledge. You cannot have wisdom if all you have is the intellectual knowledge, because you need to have the practical aspect as well. Then after you have that knowledge and wisdom, you can discern judgement and give advice: Which ultimately means you need to share your wisdom. Wisdom has a vast capacity of knowledge and requires a balance of what you know and its application.
So how does someone become wise? The Oracle of Delphi was once asked who was the wisest person? To which the Oracle replied Socrates. Socrates didn’t consider himself wise and went out to find someone wiser than himself: He was unsuccessful. So what does that mean?
I suppose with anything that is a vocation to excel at, you must be recognized as highly proficient. When I was in High School, I was recognized as a musician. I was told this by several people that I looked up to and tried to emulate.The same thing should be said about being wise, not just knowledgeable. Don’t get me wrong, being an expert at something is a fine goal to be sure, but to be wise is to take that one step farther, but you cannot be wise in your own eyes, you must be wise to other people as well – It is a virtue toward excellence.
Dr. Carol Morgan from Huffpost has 11 Ways Wise People Think, And You Can Too. She advises the following: Think before you speak, realize there is never a ‘right time,’ balance self-interest with the collective good, put things into perspective before you jump to conclusions, don’t blindly accept the status quo, keep your power – don’t let other people’s negativity upset you, don’t act impulsively – have a purpose and a goal, accept other people for who they are, the cover may be pretty – but the book might not be, don’t judge others – try to understand them instead and lastly, think positive thoughts and repeat affirmations. I would suggest reading her article at https://www.huffpost.com/entry/11-ways-wise-people-think_b_11994260.
There are a thousand ways for people to tell you how to be wise, and I have read several of the recommendations. However, it all starts with knowledge and after that, you need to gain understanding. I have read that only older people are wise, and I believe that to some extent, because they have gone through a lifetime of struggle. However, it is never too early to walk that road to wisdom, it may be hard – but wisdom will be found in the end.
Ursula M. Staudinger (2008) A Psychology of Wisdom: History and Recent Developments, Research in Human Development, 5:2, 107-120, DOI: 10.1080/15427600802034835