“To you, O people, I call out;
I raise my voice to all mankind.
You who are simple, gain prudence;
you who are foolish, set your hearts on it.
- Proverbs 8:4-5
This is Wisdom speaking. And she’s sharing a profound truth: You don’t have to already be wise to gain wisdom. Even the “simple” can gain prudence. Even the foolish can set their hearts on wisdom’s voice.
At first blush, this is a “No duh” truth. It seems blindingly obvious. Nothing profound about it. But we so easily forget that the wise haven’t always been wise. We can so easily ignore the pathway, the process of gaining wisdom.
Let’s look at this from two angles.
First, if you’re neck-deep in a smelly situation and no shovel to dig yourself free, you might despair ever gaining the wisdom to navigate your way out of this mess.
You look at wise people on your horizon and compare yourself to them. You know in your gut that they’re wiser than you. Perhaps you’re tempted to ignore the gap between their wisdom and yours – practicing positive self-talk to hype yourself up, but this won’t help you dig yourself out. You actually need wisdom. And you may actually lack wisdom.
Good news! Wisdom is available to you. In fact, to paraphrase Plato, your awareness of your lack of wisdom is a helpful step toward gaining wisdom. Don’t despair. Don’t give up. Keep seeking. Keep listening.
Now to the second angle on this truth … for those of us who consider ourselves wise in some areas of our lives – Don’t deny it! We all have areas in our lives where we have gained at least some meaningful measure of wisdom – we need to remember that our wisdom took time to grow.
One of the chief crimes of the wise is that they deny those who are behind them on the path the time and guidance that they themselves received on their own journey. We gain understanding and then forget what it’s like to not have it. This is true in parenting, in our careers, in our spiritual lives, in our health pursuits, and even in our hobbies. The Expert is rarely the Master the Student needs.
Your wisdom – hard earned though it is – is a powerful gift, entrusted to you by the God who loves both you and the people coming behind you. Remember that it took you time to gain wisdom. Remember that you had help along the way. Reflect on the path you took toward wisdom. And perhaps you will receive the joy of sharing her with another kindred soul whose search for wisdom has led them to you, even you.