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Having The Wisdom To Know

Aug 17, 2007
How do we define wisdom? Is it being knowledgeable? Is it a way of thinking? The Oxford Dictionary describes wisdom as "experience and knowledge together with the power of applying them critically or practically" or "common sense".

In our search for wisdom, we still must ask the question, we can gain experience through life and we can acquire knowledge through learning but where do we get the power or the common sense?

For the most part, psychologists all agree that wisdom as distinct from the cognitive abilities measured by the standard IQ tests. They believe that wisdom is a trait that can be developed by experience, but can never be taught.

In more general matters, wisdom is synonymous with prudence. Some people believe that wisdom is a gift that even a child, uneducated and inexperienced may possess. Wisdom is a virtue that is recognized by all circles whether they are religious, cultural or philosophical. Wisdom is defined as a set of principles that govern all of a person's actions and decisions. It can pertain to a person's perspective on life and how they deal with any number of situations.

But what is it that makes a person wise? Can wisdom be taught? Do we gain wisdom from experience or is it inherited? Can true wisdom be gained by spirituality?

As far back as the ancient Greeks wisdom was associated with virtue. Philosophers spoke about the virtue of wisdom with regards to courage and moderation. The Catholic Church says that wisdom stands with justice, fortitude and moderation as one of the four virtues. Yet some religions believe that wisdom was achieved by restoring balance. In Islam, it is believed that the Prophet Muhammad was chosen by God to represent his wisdom.

Some eastern philosophies also have their thoughts on wisdom such as Buddha who taught that a wise person has good bodily conduct, speaks well and controls their mind. It is a wise person that will do the tasks that are unpleasant but have to be done. The law of karma.

So there is much conjecture to how wisdom is acquired, yet every day we become a little wiser from the experience of just living. It is this experience that when examined, dissected and evaluated by us becomes wisdom. It is of our own choosing whether or not to use our experiences to gain wisdom. For example, you are running in a field, not watching where you are putting your feet, you trip over a log and hurt your knee. It is now up to you what you do with this experience. Do you rub your knee and forget it or do you quickly make a mental note to be more vigilant about where you put your feet?

Naturally, a wise person would do the latter. Just as a wise person would take an umbrella with them if there were heavy clouds in the sky or a jumper if there was a cold wind. So it could be said that wisdom is really a form of common sense.

Wisdom, like learned knowledge, comes at all levels from basic common sense to very deep reflective wisdom gained from reflective thought about all that has gone before us and by the analysis of our lives, our achievements and our failures and by looking at why each occurred and how it could have been better handled. How many times have you thought back over an incident and thought "if only?" If we can acknowledge these outcomes and reasons, we can learn, then apply it to what may come next.

Having the wisdom to know what to do, what to say and when to say it is all a matter of looking at the situation logically, using the experiences from our past and thinking about the possible outcomes of our next action or sentence. For some intuitive people this can be a natural process yet for others it may take a little more time and dedication.

It would appear that while wisdom cannot be learned from a text book, it can be taught. You can be taught how to become more aware of situations, thoughts, actions and deeds and the possible outcomes of these yet, only you can heed the advice being given and utilize the information in a logical manner. Wisdom comes from within, from looking at the information at hand, critically examining it and then using that information in a logical manner.
About the Author
Kevin Sinclair is the publisher and editor of my-personal-growth.com, a site that provides information and articles for self improvement and personal growth and development.
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