Has anyone ever told you, “you’re wise” or “you have wisdom”? It happened to me today when coaching and I have to say I am perplexed. I don’t see myself as being wise or having more wisdom than anyone else. When I asked them to explain they said something along the lines of, “you help me to clear a path”, “you make me see things more clearly”. “Interesting” I said, “but what exactly was I doing that made me appear wise?” Her reply was, “you ask questions and then give me time to answer”, “you always hear what I say and do not judge me” and “you always seem calm”. Is this wisdom? OK where does that take me?
Me, wise? I had never considered this before and frankly it scares the crap out of me? What exactly is my particular kind of wisdom and what is it good for? Can wisdom be measured and categorised? Does it come in different flavours depending upon how one came to be wise? To misquote Shakespeare, do some people achieve wisdom or do some have wisdom thrust upon them?
Have you noticed that wisdom comes in the form of a noun? It is a quality and not a process and yet the quality depends entirely on the process of life; noticing and understanding what happens around and within you. Wisdom is gaining experience, knowledge and good judgement. Yet there is no verb relating to wisdom. You cannot “do” wisdom. I think this is a shame in fact I rebel against this hole in the English language. I feel the Chinese are closer to my intention as there is a single symbol in Kanji that represents wisdom. The definition is more flexible and includes intellect, knowledge or reason and can also mean resourcefulness, or wit. When added to it can mean knowledge, sagacity, sense, and intelligence.
It appears then that the Chinese consider being wise is to be, to know, to think, to reason, to sense, to be sagacious, to gain experience, to feel, to be resourceful. We all do these things to some extent or another so what’s special about wisdom?
At what point can we claim wisdom for ourselves? I think I may be on to an answer. How about we stop thinking about wisdom as the end of the journey and see it as the road we travel. Make wisdom into a collective verb for all those life processes that make us wise. I know it is clumsy but in want of a better word you are “wisdomising” yourself with every new experience and insight.
If you forget about the goal of attaining wisdom and concentrate instead on the processes that lead to wisdom, then one day someone will tell you just how wise you really are. The final prize you should seek is to show others how they too can wisdomise themselves.