Don’t Waste Your Wisdom

From the beginning of time man has been trying to make sense of himself and his world. He has been seeking understanding. But as time marches on, man isn’t getting the understanding he seeks, he isn’t happier, and he hasn’t been able to conquer his own nature. What’s wrong? With all the great minds that have gone before us, with all the lessons of history left for us to examine, it’s hard to imagine why we aren’t further along than we are. Why are we asking the same questions in our search for meaning, the Greeks were asking 2600 years ago? Don’t we have enough information available by now to find the answers?

We live in a world where we are inundated with information, on a daily basis, more information than we can possibly process. We are suffering from information overload. There are so many unwanted messages bombarding us, that quite often, the ones we need get lost in the noise. The average person can now communicate faster, with more people—without thinking—than ever before.

So what are we doing with all this information? Is it really doing us any good? Are we living happier lives? Are we experiencing fewer problems? Are our decisions better? Are we any wiser? History tells us that we haven’t learned much in spite of all we know. The situation changes, but the problems remain the same.

The answer is that we need wisdom more than we need information or knowledge.

Information is data that’s been collected and organized. It is a reference tool. Something we turn to when trying to create something else. A glut of information can be counter-productive. While it adds to our knowledge, it can be a block to our wisdom. We can be so busy trying to process more and more information, that we don’t have the time for the quiet contemplation that is essential for the development of wisdom. Without contemplation, we lose our perspective; we don’t know where we are going……we just go!

Knowledge is information that we have digested and understand. Knowledge can deceive us into thinking we are wise. Knowledge alone is not wisdom. For example, have you ever known someone who is incredibly smart, maybe they get straight A’s in school, or maybe they have several degrees, and yet their life is a complete mess? What’s wrong? These people aren’t dumb. They don’t seem to lack the necessary information to be a success in life. Yet for them, life is one struggle, one upset, after another. Sadly, they lack wisdom. For the successful conduct of life mere knowledge is not enough.

Neither information nor knowledge is wisdom. There is a big difference. Wisdom is the proper use of knowledge. To be more precise, wisdom is knowledge that has been applied in a way that takes into account all its pertinent relationships and that is consistent with virtue. To have wisdom is to have a long term perspective; to see the big picture; to look beyond the immediate situation. Wisdom is practicing what you have learned rather than constantly seeking to learn new things (that you probably will never put into practice). Remember the phrase “All I needed to learn, I learned in kindergarten”? A man possesses wisdom and eloquence only in proportion as to the virtue that he actually practices.

You can talk all day long about being wise and virtuous, but if you don’t put that virtue into action, your wisdom is wasted. Ask yourself, what did I learn today about virtue? How can I transfer this lesson to my own life? How can I apply it? You then begin to live intelligently. To live with understanding. To live with meaning.

To live with wisdom.