Ever wonder why we think highly of the educated and powerful while viewing those who have wisdom as relics fit for the wards at the old-age home? Could it be the fact that western culture has very little time for humility? …Sometimes the word humble is used to describe a successful person’s beginnings. Have you ever considered what is suggested by this? Stating that a person came from humble beginnings to emphasize how far they have come suggests they have gone from being nothing to being something. In other words, humble = bad, their new success = good.
Wisdom is also a word not often used as part of the motivational speech.
It is far more likely that the speaker will use the little brother of wisdom: wise. They may say something like make wise choices and you will find success; in other words, be smart and you will go far. Humble is not the opposite of success, and wisdom is not a synonym for the application of smarts, and yet rarely will you hear about true humility and wisdom. True wisdom is only possible if someone possesses humility. These two things are inseparable.
Words are fluid, evolving continually, leading to changing uses and meanings.
At one time, wisdom described the outcome of humbly seeking God. The wise individual understood that God had a plan that exceeded their knowledge and comprehension. Wisdom was a gift from God to those who asked Him for His perfect way of doing things. Those who asked recognized they had limited abilities in comparison with their creator. Over time, the word wisdom evolved, becoming interchangeable with the word “experience.” Being called wise was reserved for those who had lived many years. Those who were called wise were respected in their community and their advice was followed.
This shifted the focus of seeking wisdom from God to seeking the viewpoint of man. This also changed the outcome: follow a wise person’s advice, and you will become a better person; follow God’s advice, and you will become a wise person. By using wisdom and experience interchangeably, you change the meaning of wisdom completely. Experience is understanding gained over time. Those considered wise based on experience are sought out for their advice on things like life choices, ethics, and morals. These areas at one time were God’s to answer based on His perfection but have since become the domain of those experienced in the ways of life in this world.
Then came the specialists, the next evolution of wisdom. Those who, through experience in a specific area of human endeavour, understood what it took to be successful in that area and were considered wise. They had an overview of the desired outcome and had witnessed both success and failure, so they could lay out a plan to accomplish their goals. They didn’t have to know how to do everything, just what needed to be done. It didn’t matter if it was industry or commerce, politics or religion, they had a vision and an understanding of what it would take to make that vision happen. They replaced those who were once considered wise because of their considerable life experience as the most respected in the community.
This loose historical account of wisdom, and those we consider wise…
…demonstrates why it’s difficult to find someone who we can truly rely on for sound advice. What once was the domain of the one true God is now divided up into smaller areas of human expertise. Those with a little knowledge or understanding in an area have become the “go-to” people when you want direction. Based on human definitions of success, we seek out the foremost authority in the desired field. No longer is God’s plan done God’s way in God’s time, using the people and resources He chooses, the goal. Gone is the ability to say I don’t know, I can’t figure it out, I’m not sure how to proceed. This is all replaced with someone knows, someone has figured it out, someone can tell me how to proceed, I just need to find the right person, book, seminar, or instructional video.
How far away from true wisdom can we wander? As far away from humility as we are willing to go.
“When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” Proverbs 11:2 (NIV)