I recently finished reading the book of Proverbs and was struck by four basic, yet challenging elements of a wise life. These are some (not all) characteristics of wisdom that I desire to have both as an individual and as a leader.
1. To be a person who learns from others mistakes, experiences and advice. This theme is found literally throughout the entire book of Proverbs. It seems simple, but I find it to be both rare and desirable. The skill of heeding the warnings or insight of another and applying it requires incredible foresight and self knowledge. What is impressive about this skill is that it creates a cache of knowledge to be used in circumstances not yet experienced.
2. To receive rebuke from others. Proverbs 9:8 & 15:31. It is one thing to receive well the advice of others. It is another thing entirely to receive their rebuke and requires a genuine emotional security. To be comfortable with even a trusted friend telling us how wrong we might be is an uncommon characteristic; one which I can plainly admit to having struggled with.
3. To foresee consequences before they play out. Proverbs 16:15 & 22:3. There is plenty to say both in proverbs and in life about true foresight. This isn’t specifically a prophetic gift as much as it is a discerning mind. This woman or man can effectively see farther down the road than the average person, accurately predicting the outcomes of choices and circumstances.
4. To learn from, or even be rebuked by circumstances. Proverbs 24:32 & 26:11. In the first of these proverbs, the author is ultimately talking about an actual lesson he’s learned. However, he has gone out of his way to point out how he learned it: through the observation of choice and circumstance. In many ways, you could say that this person has gained the ability to learn from consequences. While this seems profoundly simple, it unfortunately remains an under developed and under utilized skill. In Proverbs 26:11 we find an oft quoted saying that points out the negative example. Very simply, this person has not learned from consequences and proves themselves a fool by returning to the same set of circumstances and/or choices.