“I think you’re over-thinking this.”
I was driving somewhere, and my sister was riding shotgun. The rest of the discussion has faded from memory, but I remember this moment.
And she was right. My arguments failed to recognize the two or three most important things.
Sorting out thorny issues requires wisdom, but there are different opinions even about what wisdom is. In his book Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill explains wisdom as a sixth sense a person can develop, allowing him or her to receive flashes of inspiration.
The Character First definition emphasizes a person’s ability to put what is true into practice or to see connections between “character issues” and behavior.
When I think of what is wise in a common everyday way, it also involves what I believe and the way I figure it out. That sounds like a lot, but it’s not that complicated in real life.
For example, when deciding what to eat for lunch, we admire someone who has the self-discipline to eat a salad, even a hearty salad. This person values daily decisions. He or she appears well informed about the affect of diet on health. Perhaps this person even has the humility to defer to the wishes of a doctor or spouse.
It takes more than knowledge and more than intelligence to learn from others. It takes humility to assume that others might know something I don’t know. It takes humility to change something I’m doing because I trust someone else’s perspective, even if I can’t see exactly what they are saying.
On the other hand, we have trouble taking someone seriously who argues—against the evidence—that eating junk food doesn’t affect one’s health. We all know daily decisions add up, and we wouldn’t admire someone who ignored his or her doctors or loved ones.
In the film and book, The Princess Bride, Vizzini the Sicilian imagines himself a great mind, able to “predict the truth using logic and wisdom.” But when he is pursued by the Dread Pirate Roberts, the “inconceivable” begins to happen with alarming regularity. At least it should have alarmed him—and then maybe he would have survived to further complicate the plot.
But as it turns out, in his final battle of wits, Vizzini didn’t consider the possibility Roberts was immune to the deadly iocane powder.
Sometimes the wisest course is to recognize what we don’t know. Sometimes even our little sisters can see things we have overlooked.
Healthy Leadership Essentials 30: Forgiveness from TRUE AFRICA LEADER on Vimeo.