Wisdom By Experience

experienceIn a story that rivals that of Aladdin and the Magic Lamp, the Old Testament tells the tale of how King Solomon was granted a supernatural wish. In a dream God offered the young king anything he desired. He asked for wisdom. He asked for common sense, for “an understanding mind and discernment.”

God granted the request and Solomon, indeed, became an unrivaled savant. His wisdom was “as measureless as the sand on the seashore, and from all nations people came to listen to Solomon’s counsel.”

Most of us will never get this opportunity, though the Scriptures implore us to pray for wisdom when it is needed. And even if we were granted a magical wish by a genie, God, or even Barbara Eden, most of us would ask for a house in the Hamptons, the winning numbers for the Powerball, or an age-defying serum of some sort. Wisdom would hardly make the short list.

For this reason most of us will have to obtain wisdom the old fashioned way: It will have to be drilled into our thick skulls and stubborn hearts. I wish there was a different way, but wisdom is largely the product of experience, and “experience” is that polite, descriptive word we use for a calamitous fiasco. It seems we must hurt ourselves to understand some things, and the only way some of us learn is the hard way.

Oh, yes, we think we know what we are doing. We think we are supremely smart, strong, clever, and resourceful, but that is the kind of arrogant thinking that sooner or later will impale us. So let me save you some suffering: If an electric fence says “DANGER,” it is dangerous – this is substantiates by painful “experience.” Marrying the wrong person will hurt both you and that partner (some of us have this “experience” too). When a dishonest person shows you his true colors, don’t wait around for him to prove it a second or third time.

If it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably neither good nor close to being true. And if you think you are strong enough to change a person’s wayward ways with only your good intentions, I’ve got a crash helmet to sell you, because you are about to injure yourself.

“Modern” humans have been around for some 200,000 years, we’ve been writing and recording history for the last seven millennia, and we still have to touch to stovetop to see if it is really hot. It is, but so goes the wisdom that comes from “experience.”

So here is a word of wisdom for us all, from whippersnappers to old salts: You don’t have a long enough life to learn everything by “experience.” Heed the wisdom of others and ask the heavens for a little help when it is required. No, it’s not as convenient as a genie in a bottle, but it will protect you from some of the scars of “experience,” and that is wisdom itself.

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