It strikes me odd that our culture so rarely reflects deeply on what it is to flourish. What makes a life truly meaningful? What is it to thrive deeply? We go through so much of life not stopping to ask ourselves:
What is most important in life? Do you have a compelling answer? You need one. If you don't reflect deeply on this question, and decide, other people will choose for you.
Let’s consider wealth. Without wisdom, you will limit the money you can make. Not only that, but if you make money, without wisdom you will still come to ruin and will not live a life of meaning, purpose, and peace. I’ve known many wealthy people who are miserable.
How about success? You can climb to the top of the mountain of success in whatever career or calling you have, but if you do not live wisely, it will ring empty and hollow at the summit.
“But Josh” you say, “how can love not be the most important in life?” It’s important, yes, but without wisdom, you will never grow in deep and abiding love with others. Without wisdom you will let conflict, fear, resentment, and selfishness creep in and your despite your best intentions you will poison the relationships you most care about, and that is one of the greatest tragedies you could experience.
Even freedom. Yes freedom, or liberty, that greatest of American ideals is not most important. I have talked to and studied those who have lost their freedom and been imprisoned. And I can tell you that your freedom is not the most important in your life. Because if you do not live wisely, then your freedom will be wasted. And if you lose your freedom and are not wise then you will be most miserable.
Even imprisonment has not stopped the wise from thriving. For the ultimate freedom is choosing wise attitudes and actions regardless of what around you is occurring. Even the horrors of prison, or the Holocaust.
One of the greatest books written in the 20th century, Man’s search for Meaning, was written by Victor Frankl, a survivor of the Holocaust and a victim to incredible suffering and the loss of his freedom.
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
~Victor Frankl One of our world’s great leaders in recent history, Desmond Tutu, was not stopped by imprisonment. Ghandi thrived despite being imprisoned. Or consider the leadership and influence of Martin Luther King Jr. despite his limited freedoms as a black man.
And some of the most read words in human history were written from prison by the man known as Paul the Apostle:
“ Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
You need wisdom, for it is the most important skill you can pursue.
Wisdom is more important for you than wealth, success, or even love. Wisdom is more important than your own freedom. Without wisdom you will ruin all of these things. Or never get there to begin with.
The time is now
Life brings uncertainty. At both individual and global levels our future is unclear. The coronavirus has brought the world the most unique season since the Second World War. How then, are we to respond?
By seeking wisdom.
There has never been a greater need for you to grow in wisdom. Our culture screams with shallowness, overwhelms us with distractions, and many voices draw us towards a life of comfort, living out of fear, feeling insignificant, or pursuing selfishness.
The challenge and resistance to growing in wisdom is real. If you seek to live a life of significance, a life of thriving, you will face difficulties and challenges. It won’t come easy or quick. But growth can come and you can begin to see changes in your perspective, attitude, and actions.
The reality is that if you want to thrive in this short life of yours, wisdom should be valued and sought above all else in your life.
Is it worth it?
Let me ask you some questions:
Do you want a life of deep purpose? Do you want to know how to make better decisions? Do you want to make better meaning of the pain and wounds you have experienced? Do you want to be more resilient? Do you want to thrive?
If you can say yes to these questions, then you can say yes it is worth it to grow in wisdom.
But wisdom won’t come without commitment and sacrifice. Pursuing wisdom will cost you dearly.
Not only will it cost you, part of that cost is that it will require you to take action.
Mere mental consent is not enough. Even strong belief is not enough. You must follow up and add action to your belief, or the reality is that you are in denial or you don’t truly believe what you are saying.
What we repeatedly choose and what we love are the two essentials aspects that will determine who you become. What you love is another way of describing your values. It's not just about what you think is nice. It's about what you actually value. Your actions will show what you actually value. What you do over time will reveal that. What you repeatedly choose over time shows your character, or your virtues. Virtuous skill in living, is my definition of wisdom.
You can read more about the fundamentals of how to grow in wisdom here.
If you want to live a life of deep purpose and significance, if you want to grow in resilience to meet the challenges that face you, if you want to handle situations with peace that used to confuse you, make wisdom most important in your life.