We can grow in wisdom if we reflect on and learn from our experience. After writing the chapter on “Growing as Becoming” in Growing Generous Souls, I thought about wisdom as less of an achievement or endpoint, and more as a process of becoming the wise person each of us is meant to be.
A recent retreat prompted me to read the Book of Proverbs. It is a collection of stand-alone statements or maxims, originally meant to help young people live wisely, according to the teachers of their time. Often it describes wise attitudes, words and actions in contrast to the thoughts, speech and behaviors of fools.
So what do wise people seek, say, and do? Proverbs says they:
Seek discernment (4:7)
Trust God with all their heart, not relying on their own insight (3:5f.)
Fear [are in the awe of] God (3:7)
Make their path of life lead upward [instead of down] (15:24)
Counsel peace instead of planning evil (12:20)
Speak with truthful lips (12:19)
Talk with a gentle tongue, building the spirit instead of breaking it (15:4)
Speak in such a way that they spread knowledge [knowing God directly] (15:7)
Walk in integrity, and therefore with security (10:9)
Lay up knowledge [big-picture wisdom] (10:14)
Listen to advice (12:15)
Act faithfully, and therefore become a delight to God (12:22)
Walk with others who are wise, and so become wiser themselves (13:20)
Build up their households [relationships] (14:1)
Are cautious about being taken in by evil (14:16)
Forgive an affront against them, thereby fostering friendships (17:9)
Acquire discernment and listen for knowledge (18:15)
Make plans by taking advice (20:18)
Give and do not hold back (21:26)
Refuse to wear themselves out in order to get rich (23:4)
Keep God’s Law [God’s “Teaching”] (28:7).
By pointing to an ideal, these proverbs can become signposts along the way, helping us follow a wiser path in our future daily living.