From the time that I was growing up, and thereafter, I particularly admired my parents and grandparents for something "very special." And then, while attending school, I saw that something "very special" again in my instructors, and in others.
When I took my first teaching position, I discovered it there, too. The well experienced teacher next to my room (who later became my mother-in-law) displayed it time and time again. Also, my first superintendent of schools of where I was a teacher, would often say when facing a complicated administrative situation, "Bob, it just seems wise that we should do 'thus and so.'"
And, you know, he was absolutely on target. It was an inspiration to learn from these individuals, and to have such a high regard for each of them.
It was difficult to put my finger on just what it was that I so admired in these folks. Indeed, it was their keen insightfulness, instinctive perceptiveness and genuine humbleness that stood front and center. But now, upon reflection, I can put it in a word which I so admired, and continue to admire in others. Ah yes, WISDOM is the word.
Most all of us are the beneficiaries of genuine wisdom all around us. We have greatly benefited from the wise actions and prudence of "others." And many of these "others " so to speak, are thoughtful, reflective, knowledgeable, and humble folks. Many of us have seen this first hand, by having wise and prudent parents, a thoughtful spouse and family, siblings, relatives, teachers, colleagues, students, friends and acquaintances. They very well may have helped to nurture within us "something" very special.
That "something" is an appreciation for the high degree of wisdom they possess. At the same time, there is generated within ourselves, a genuine regard for the very essence of wisdom. The humbleness of such folks is striking. Clearly, I believe, humility and wisdom go hand in hand.
Wisdom is, I believe, a judicious application of knowledge. As I see it, knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens. Wisdom is a deep understanding and keen realization of people, and a conceptual understanding as to how things, events, and situations, are all related. This results in the ability to apply these perceptions, judgments and actions while maintaining one's values. It often requires control of one's emotional reactions, so that universal principles, fair reasoning, and informational knowledge prevail in determining one's actions.
As I see it, wisdom is, in part at least, the comprehension of what is uniquely true, coupled with optimum judgment in determining thought and action.
In short, wisdom is a process by which we insightfully discern, sagaciously judge, and empathically arrive at wise decisions within an array of available alternatives. Uncompromising integrity prevails.
Wisdom uniquely draws from the inner self. It requires one to have a depth of informational knowledge and a thoughtful understanding between what is right and what is less than proper. As I see it, wisdom resides as much in the heart as it does in the mind. It requires one to know oneself and a depth of rationale for where one stands. It was Aristotle who said, "Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom."
When you know the values for which you stand, no one can make you feel inferior. It was Eleanor Roosevelt who said so brilliantly, "No one can make you feel inferior, without your own consent. Such a person is wise indeed!
The essence of wisdom tends to be lauded in all cultures. It is often viewed as a state that leaves you calm, able to think through things before acting upon them, and not be someone who is easily caught up by the myriad of fads pulsating through society at any time. Wisdom includes an ability to stand back and take in the bigger picture, while still admiring the details that make things function well.
Valued virtues, a fund of knowledge, and sincere humbleness, ... when these three walk together, WISDOM seems to prevail.
Dr. Robert L. Heichberger is professor emeritus at the State University of New York at Fredonia and distinguished professor at Capella University in Minneapolis, MN. All of the past columns can be viewed on Send comments to: Rheich@aol.com