How can we cultivate wisdom?
We don’t need to be academics, but just like any muscle in our body or area of health or personal development, this is one area to train, grow and use regularly. Wisdom is not some airy-fairy concept. It’s gutsy, down-to-earth and real. Here’s ten ways to cultivate wisdom in your life.
1. Read: Reading wisely is a great way to glean wisdom. Reading is a wonderful way to understand history, values, attitudes and events. Read widely and discuss your reading with others. Don’t believe everything you read, but weigh it against what you know and what others know.
2. Listen: Listen to others’ opinions. Listen to the radio when there are good discussions on current topics. Again, do not believe everything you hear but use wisdom to become discerning. There’s a saying: Who is the wise person? He who learns from all people.
3. Wise Friends: Have wise people around you. We become like the people we hang around. If we want to be wise, we need to have people around us who can be a sounding board, or provide input when we have big decisions to make. The people we take advice should be wise in finances, morality and common sense. Wise people don’t just know a lot of facts, they also have the ability to function in the world in a discerning and careful way.
4. Pause: Take time to consider the consequences of your actions. A guiding principle in my life is from The Bible: Everything is permissible to me but not all is beneficial. We all have choices, but we need to consider if they are beneficial or counterproductive for us.
Foot-in-mouth disease has characterised my life. How often do we speak without thinking? Stop and think. Rash, reactionary responses sometimes get us into trouble. Sometimes in our rush to get things done, or the enjoyment of discussion (that’s me), we let our words ‘be many’. The wise person’s words are few.
5. Learn: Learn from your mistakes. The saying, ‘history never repeats’ is not always true. Some people make the mistake of thinking that they can do the same thing over and over and expect different results. We need to learn from our mistakes and use failures as a lesson for the future.
It’s so important to be able to discern, analyse, think through, decide carefully, and listen to the small voice of reason that speaks to us.
8. Be Unsure: The older I get, the less sure I am about some things. When I was twenty I thought I knew so much. The world seemed fairly black and white. I knew what was right and wrong. Now, some of the things I felt so certain about are grey. I have certainty in many things, but it’s okay to be challenged in our thinking and explore issues and ideas. The wisest people I know often say, I’m really not sure, but this is what I do know…’
The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. Bertrand Russell
9. Wise Principles: The right words can clarify decisions. One piece of wisdom can transform a person’s life. How many times has one sentence leapt out at you then stuck in your head? Have you used it, or ignored it?
Some wise sayings that have stuck in my mind include:
Sometimes you’ve just got to let it go.
Do not let the sun go down on your anger.
This, too, shall pass.
Find some guiding principles for your own life that reflect your values and beliefs, and when you face something challenging, remind yourself of them.
10. Search: Before you know anything else, you’ve got to know what you’re living for. If you have a reason to live, a purpose, a sense of destiny you’ll respect wisdom, take it seriously, and make a sincere effort to acquire it.
Wisdom is good for the soul. It makes sense to pursue it.
Proverbs 24:13–14 says, “My son, eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste. Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off.”