How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver! Proverbs 16:16 (NIV)
I think what fascinates me about wisdom is that it is non-discriminatory. You can have a Phd and lack wisdom, but you can be illiterate and be wise. The pauper can obtain it, but the wealthy can’t buy it. And the strong can’t take it from the one who is weak. It would seem wisdom can be obtained by all. The only advantage in obtaining wisdom is time. The longer one lives the more opportunities to amass it, but age is only an advantage, it’s not a guarantee.
So how do we get it?
It seems that humility is one accelerant to obtaining wisdom.
Proverbs 18:10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” What could be more humbling than recognizing the character and nature of God and our position to Him? The wisest of people I have encountered do not have even a smidge of arrogance or haughtiness in their person. Jesus, who had every right to power, became nothing, serving his own creation to the point of death. Humility has probably been the most difficult of postures to acquire and greatest of personal struggles I’ve faced throughout life. Every time their is pride, wisdom is absent. Two practices have been significant in my life as I’ve sought to replace self centered arrogance with humility that leads to wisdom.
“Even a fool is thought wise if he remains silent” Larry King, maybe one of the best interviewers in the country has said, “I never learned anything while I was talking.”
In my line of work as an author, communicator, counselor, and consultant I’m paid to “speak up”. But I never realized how much this “lack of silence” had become an occupational hazard in my quest for wisdom. I love to talk! I love to give my opinion. I even get paid for it! But as Larry said…
Henri Nouwen speaks to the relationship of solitude and humility in The Way of the Heart:
“In solitude I get rid of my scaffolding: no friends to talk with, no telephone calls to make, no meetings to attend, no music to entertain, no books to distract, just me – naked, vulnerable, weak, sinful, depraved, broken – nothing. It is this nothingness that I have to face in my solitude, a nothingness so dreadful that everything in me wants to run to my friends, my work, and my distractions so that I can forget my nothingness and make myself believe that I am worth something. …That is the struggle. It is the struggle to die to the false self.”
I don’t know that I’ve ever felt that way being alone. I love solitude. People don’t believe this about me, but I am introvert. I enjoy being around people, I just get exhausted in the process. I’m a “people oriented introvert”. It takes me days to recover from our National Youth Worker Conventions. So solitude has never been hard for me to experience, but maximizing that alone time so it produces results has been. So I’m alone? What is the result?
I believe there is a difference between being alone and practicing solitude with intention. When I practice solitude I try to examine my life, replay past experiences and conversations and look for patterns that work, and patterns that are destructive. Standing naked in front of a mirror for a long period of time can be humbling too. Try it sometime.
But probably the most productive time in solitude is spent “in the fear of the Lord”. Measuring my heart, my motivations, my character up against the standard of His glory. Sometimes the humility lasts only for that moment, until the phone rings, and sometimes it sticks, and alters the course of life.