Listening is the way to wisdom.
You don’t have to be old to be wise.
You don’t have to be a genius to be wise.
You have to listen.
We can listen in so many ways. Listening in its most direct sense is a use of our ears to hear. But I’m using “listening” in the broader sense of paying attention, taking in information and experience and processing it.
The processing is important. Just as we can hear without listening, we can take in information and have experiences without paying attention and thinking through what we have encountered.
Why do we all need wisdom? Because it helps us live a better life, and life is extremely important — a gift from God, a one time for each one person, a passing thing, a joyous experience, a challenging experience.
But we also need wisdom because this life journey is not just about each of us; it is about the people we encounter. Wise people are more likely to be a blessing to those they encounter. They are less likely to say stupid things that cause pain and hurt.
Reading has been a primary means to wisdom for centuries. But do not despair if reading is not your thing. Before reading, humanity shared its wisdom vocally — telling stories and sharing insights. There is so much knowledge and understanding available today in audio podcasts and in video form. Of course, there is also a bunch of trash, just as there are trash books that do not grow wisdom but rather promote shallowness.
We choose what kind of person we want to be when we choose what we read, listen to, and watch. Take in thoughtful content, process it, and you will become a more thoughtful person.
Those of you who are talkers — like pastors, teachers, public speakers, and just conversationalists — have to be especially careful if you want to grow wise. Every moment you spend talking is time not spent learning.
Those who don’t like to talk so much, have a different challenge. This promotes good thinking and wisdom, but it does not promote community and relationships, and they are important to our whole health, as well.
Healthy living, both for each person and for those they encounter, is along a middle path of thinking and sharing. This is one of the reasons why when I teach I love it when the quiet ones speak. The talkers keep things going and make class interesting, but the thinkers often are the ones who can bring wisdom into a group, if they will but speak.
Solomon prayed for wisdom not just so he could be smart but so he could serve well — the inside and the outside of his life.
1 Kings 3:7-9:
“And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?” (NRSV).