wis· dom [ˈwizdəm]
NOUN: the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment.
synonyms: sagacity · intelligence · sense · common sense
Last week I discussed an observation that I have been processing regarding the difference between scholarship and wisdom.
As I mentioned last week, those of us who live in Westernized nations generally consider scholarship to be a big deal - in so much as we have great regard for people who have earned academic and (or) other conventional credentials. As a result, scholarship can carry weightiness in our view of whether or not we value the opinion of someone who is expressing their perspective.
That said, my central concern is this: Does scholarship automatically produce wisdom?
Scholarship could be summarized as the accumulation of facts and data that a person has acquired through study, research, investigation, observation, or experience.
Wisdom, on the other hand, is the ability to discern and judge which elements of such knowledge are profitable, true, and applicable to a productive life. Wisdom is the capacity to apply knowledge in a positive and fruitful manner in the reality of our day-to-day choices and behavior.
I have known quite a number of people with limited education who are extremely wise. Such people have developed useful protocols for assessing the plethora of ideas and opinions streaming across the data-field of their minds. Based on their internal assessment(s), they consistently act according to the sort priority of that which they have determined is productive, useful, and timely.
By contrast, I trust that all of us have encountered those with exceptional scholarship and/or credentials who appear to possess little or no wisdom. Such academicians demonstrate behavioral characteristics that tell the story of an inherent lack of discernment and/or good judgement.
That is why, at the end of the day, I believe thoughtful leaders will be careful to surround themselves with wise individuals. They will weigh external degrees and certificates in the light of the corresponding life example demonstrated - and by that measure choose carefully with whom they will consistently associate.
Favoring wisdom above mere scholarship is not only astute, it will allow us to continue to grow in our own depth of understanding. As the wise ancient King Solomon stated, “The companion of wise men will become wise; [yet] the companion of the foolish will suffer harm.”
Of course the obvious and ideal scenario is to associate with those who are both scholarly and wise. Yet if I have to choose between scholarship and wisdom, I will cast my vote for wisdom every time.