Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Wisdom is: Kind

Unfortunately, wisdom comes with a stereotype: grouchy, reclusive, unapproachable, judgmental, mean, etc. That's an ugly list of characteristics, but I'm not the one that came up with it. I spent a little time last weekend talking with some of the kids I work with, asking them to describe what they image a wise person to be like, other than smart. Of course, this is the edited, censored version. Their original answers weren't quite so blog-friendly...

But as I've spent time in the bible researching what it means to be wise, I've found none of these things to be true.

As we've already discussed, wisdom is humble as well as self-controlled. Today, we'll be talking about how wisdom is also accompanied by kindness, contrary to how the kids I work with think. Now, there are a lot of verses that support that wisdom is kind, but for the sake of keeping this post a reasonable length, we'll just stick to a few proverbs.

To begin with, I'm guessing a truly wise man would never be heard saying, "I told you so!" Although that may be our rash, instantaneous response, those four little words all strung together pack quite a punch, crippling egos and making it difficult to seek guidance in the future. When a person hears those words, they're usually too busy recoiling from the blow to actually learn from their mistake. As I've worked with oppositional youth over the past decade, I've destroyed tons of learning moments for kids just by saying these word when they've disregarded my advice and gotten themselves into trouble.

Trust me on this one. But I won't say, "I told you so," if you slip up and say it anyway...

So, if "I told you so!" isn't the wise thing to say when someone messes up, what is? "There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing," (Proverbs 12:18). Having someone come down on you with rash words hurts, and if you've just screwed something up, chances are you're not feeling too hot to begin with. Our instinct is to point out failure, even when our end goal is to help. "By the mouth of a fool comes a rod for his back, but the lips of the wise will preserve them," (Proverbs 14:3). Chances are, they know when they've failed. After all, don't you? A better place to begin in the helping process is with some healing words, usually encouragement or support, taking care of them. The original Hebrew text of Proverbs 14:3 uses the word shamar to describe the wise, which can be translated into "bodyguard," "overseer," and "keeper."

As you build up a person, they'll come to trust you and feel comfortable around you, and you're guidance will mean so much more. This is really where discipleship comes into play. Walking alongside the wise in the context of a relationship, a person can really grow and learn. "Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise..." (Proverbs 13:20). One man's wisdom benefits all, because a truly wise man shares his knowledge.

A wise man heals others and teaches them. Wisdom is Kind.

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