A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11
Listen to advice and accept instruction and in the end you will be wise. Proverbs 19:20
I wish I had seen these verses 10 years ago. Not that I would have necessarily heeded them, because you know, when you know everything why would you need instruction or wisdom? Ha.
When I think of my teens and twenties, I see a woman who had a bloated head full of ideas for which I was ready to fight to the death. I suffered from a severe case of chronological snobbery depending on the topic at hand. Something I deemed repressive or archaic? My default argument was that those poor people just didn’t know what we know now. Something progressive that went against my hard-line thinking? Surely we need to get back to the ‘good ol’ days’.
I was like a ball on a ping pong table with the way I bounced around between ideals.
But don’t try to tell me where I’m in error, or you’ll be engaged in a word fire-fight and I take no prisoners. I will burn you to the ground and not worry about your feelings or decency in the process.
That was then.
These days there are very few hills I’ll die on. While I once looked for a good debate wherever I could find it, now I find that life is much more productive when I approach everyone with an attitude of love and grace, and save the confrontations for when there really is an issue of truth or righteousness on the line that’s going to have dire consequences if it’s violated.
This even translates over to parenting. I am so thankful that God gives grace in this area. The Kristi of seven years ago would have stuck out a horrible method of parenting or discipline, just because I didn’t want to be wrong or concede where I had failed. That’s not wisdom, that’s stubborn stupidity. That kind of stubbornness leaves casualties in it’s wake.
For instance, one of our kids responds quite horribly to spanking. We haven’t done a lot of spanking because we haven’t found it to be the most effective method of discipline for either of our boys, but one in particular seemed to be further enraged and emotionally hurt when we employed this method. I’m thankful that I received much wisdom from parents who have gone before me, who encouraged me that there are alternatives. Had I rejected wisdom and chosen to “stay the course” because I was determined in my stubborn way to force a result, I don’t know what the consequences would be, but I doubt that love and peace would have been the result.
I think another aha moment for me was realizing too, that wisdom is not necessarily equated with chronological age. You can have an 80 year old fool, or a 35 year old sage, it really depends on the state of humility of the person’s heart. A proud person is not likely to acquire much wisdom.
Additionally, to have wisdom you must have a plumb line. If everything is grey, and nothing is certain, it’s kind of difficult to grow in knowledge and application of the big ideas of life, since you have no benchmark for any of them. Our culture seems to hate this idea of a fixed reference point for right and wrong. Within this idea of a plumb line though, we also must possess the humility to acknowledge that sometimes our interpretation of right and wrong may be skewed. And if we find that to be the case, we humbly course-correct. It’s not the end of the world to be wrong and to adjust your outlook.
There must also be a higher level of knowledge that we defer to. We are not all on the same level, though that sounds nice. The person who has been through war and survived has wisdom about military practice that the average person does not. The parent who has raised 4 children who have gone on to become successful adults has a voice in parenting that should be valued over the voice who is still in the trenches of diapers. And if like me, you are a follower of Christ, His standards always trump yours.
I don’t know how many times I’ve gone to the bible and basically left kicking and screaming because what God was asking of me just felt so unfair. In retrospect though, with the benefit of time behind me, I can see where He was right and I was wrong. Kind of like when you tell your 3 year old they can’t have fruity pebbles for 3 meals a day. Just because it tastes good and it seems right and they can’t see the harm in it, you know that as the parent it’s going to make them act crazy and develop nutritional deficiencies. We are all a bunch of 3 year olds pitching fits about our fruity pebbles, but most of us are so highly exalted in our own minds that we can’t bend ourselves to fit the mold that God has cast for us. If we can though, wisdom, peace, and abundant life awaits.