Maybe you’ve heard this nugget: “Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.” This phrase is attributed to the late British journalist and musician, Miles Beresford Kington. Who, incidentally also gave us "Franglais," the blissful French-and-English combination that my friend Kent Evans loves using so often. I digress.
Is this an accurate depiction of wisdom? Is wisdom the same thing as knowledge? Are there different "kinds" of wisdom? Let's explore five ways we can be wise about wisdom.
1. Recognizing patterns can unlock wisdom.
There is an app my sons and I have played with that shows us photos and we have to figure out the theme that connects the images. They are much better at it than I am! Some of the sets make it simple to find the connection, others are a bit more tricky. I believe one way we learn wisdom is by recognizing patterns we see every day - in our relationships, our jobs and our thoughts. Both the good and the bad. What to do, what to avoid.
2. Learning from our experiences helps.
Kevin Washburn in Architecture of Learning explains, "The brain receives and sorts sensory data causing patterns to emerge. The patterns direct the brain to search its long-term memory for previous experiences with similar data.” Your brain sorts new info into the patterns it has on file, and puts brand new info into a place to be sorted later. Our experiences can add to our wisdom.
3. Wisdom is brought and borrowed.
My friend Doug Michael is a wise fellow. He says there are two types of wisdom: wisdom you bring based on your own experiences; and, wisdom you borrow from others' experiences. Think of how many men you know. How much wisdom might you borrow from them?
4. Wisdom can be taught and caught.
We covered this in a previous blog. Simply put, we can learn a lot by observing people, not just having them teach you. Proverbs 13:20 says “walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” You've likely heard the quote, “show me your friends, and I’ll show your future.” Do you have wise friends? What about your kids?
Even so, do more experiences and keen observation equal more wisdom? Well, yes and no. Jesus’ parables often leveraged people’s experiences as He referenced the way things were to get them oriented. But, He also gave them new information to renew (and shape) their minds, like "going the extra mile" or "turning the other cheek." He referenced their patterns, but he broke them too.
5. True wisdom is found in God.
But the most valuable wisdom of all is the wisdom that you do not get from the school of hard knocks or from superior powers of perception. It's the wisdom that comes directly from above. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Prov. 9:10) Like James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously.”
How much wisdom could you gain by planting you and your son around other men and boys who have a healthy fear of God? By combining the experiences of the men in the room with the inerrant word of God? This would probably be more (eh-hem) fruitful than learning not to put tomatoes in a fruit salad.
Consider starting a Manhood Journey group to allow God space for you and others to bring and borrow wisdom from each other and to mine heavenly wisdom from His matchless word.