Some people use wisdom and intelligence interchangeably but the words do not have the same meaning.  Wisdom is a little more complex and somewhat hard to define.  Psychologists seem to agree that wisdom involves an integration of knowledge, experience, and a profound understanding that incorporates tolerance for all of the ups and downs in life.  People with genuine wisdom are aware of how things play out over time and they have a sense of balance.

People who are wise are optimistic and believe that life’s problems can be solved so they are calm when they face difficult decisions.  Intelligence may be important when it comes to wisdom but on its own, it is not sufficient.  One must also possess an ability to see the big picture.  Introspection can also contribute to wisdom as understanding oneself is a big step in understanding everything else around. 

Ancient Greeks considered wisdom to be a virtue and in today’s society many would still say that it is.  It is in part the job of schools to provide character education.  Along with parents, teachers work to build character in wisdom in today’s youth.  When you are taught wisdom, you are taught to understand what is of value in life.

Knowledge without wisdom can be dangerous.  As we see more and more advances in today’s world it is important to impart wisdom to people in order that they use the knowledge in a positive way.  Wisdom can be used to improve well-being whereas knowledge without wisdom can destroy it.

With advances in technology we all have easy access to knowledge.  This is where wisdom becomes important as we all need to be aware of positive ways to apply the knowledge we can access.  Wisdom is more than just facts and knowledge but more the application of the facts and knowledge that we obtain to better ourselves, those around us, and essentially the world.

When there are problems or crisis around the world we can track the problem back to a lack of wisdom.  Someone had knowledge but did not have the wisdom to apply it for the better good.  Wisdom has become so important in the age in which we live because so many people have access to information that they can choose to use for harm or for good.  If we are teaching people values and morals and giving the wisdom to make good choices then the information that they can access is not as dangerous.

Thomas Jefferson once said, “[H]onesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”  One needs to be honest with himself and with others in order to gain wisdom.  If you do not gain wisdom from your own past and from the events that have shaped the past for all of us, you are not being honest with yourself.  We can only learn from our mistakes if we are truthful about them.

We also need to be willing to admit that however much life experience we have and what we have been through does not mean that we can understand everything.  Socrates said it best when he said, “[T]rue wisdom comes to each of us when we realize how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us.”

Written by Stephanie Barber.