I was chatting with some friends the other day, and someone said something about how people get wiser as they get older.
“Not necessarily.” I said. “You have to choose to get wiser.”
They asked me to elaborate, so here’s what I mean . . . Unlike knowledge, which can be accumulated deliberately and systematically, wisdom comes from growth.
Wisdom comes when we decide to:
– Learn from our mistakes rather than repeat them.
– Acknowledge our feelings and then examine them.
– Accept criticism when it bears a hint of truth.
– Challenge our own longstanding beliefs.
– Open ourselves to new people and experiences.
– Find balance between serving ourselves and serving others.
– Choose to re-examine our pasts and stay open to potential futures.
– Become willing to share our wisdom not out of ego but for the good of others.
We’ve all known plenty of seniors who are stuck in their old ways and old patterns of thinking. They have chosen not to grow wise because acquiring wisdom requires hard work. It requires self-examination, empathy, and compassion. It forces us out of our comfort zones. It challenges our abilities. It asks us to face hard truths about ourselves and those we love. It requires us to take responsibility for the harm we’ve done, and to commit ourselves daily to doing better.
And growing “older and wiser” can be confusing at times because wisdom does not mean “knowing better” than younger people. It’s not about telling them what to do, it’s about helping them acquire wisdom on their own, which means sometimes holding our tongues and, other times, being willing to live our truths even if that means putting a wedge between us and them. It means taking a chance to be truly honest when young people ask us to be, and to simultaneously stay open to the possibility the advice we are giving, especially when it wasn’t sought, may be wrong.
In other words, being wise doesn’t always make us right.
The way I see it, there are plenty of seniors who have grown old without ever growing much wiser, and plenty of young people who are growing wiser by the day.
So, wisdom isn’t something that’s ever fully achieved, and it’s not something automatic that comes with age, it’s something we have to choose to seek every single day.
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