Learning from Experience

Sometimes (but not always!), the New Living Translation of the Bible sums up a verse with remarkable insight and brevity. In particular, I like the NLT rendering of Proverbs 4:7.

I’ve mentioned this before, but whether you are a Christian or not, everyone can benefit from reading through the book of Proverbs. There is so much practical wisdom contained therein, written by someone who was believed – at the time – to be the wisest man who ever lived.

But back to the passage at hand. This message from Proverbs 4:7 is incredibly countercultural, because our world – generally speaking – celebrates the acquisition of things and knowledge, rather than the cultivation of meaningful relationships and experiences that make us better people.

From my perspectve, it is the interaction in these two variables (our relationships and experiences) that creates an opportunity for wisdom in a person. I say “opportunity,” because the Bible attests that true wisdom must be sought after on a consistent basis – it’s not something that we stumble upon while we’re on our way to Starbucks in the morming.

The world is full of many educated, yet unwise people. On the flipside, there are also many uneducated yet wise people. My aim is to be somewhere in the middle – by God’s grace, a discerning and educated woman who seeks wisdom with all of her heart.

The wisdom that I have cultivated thusfar has come from my reflections on what I have experienced – both good and bad. The way I see it, wisdom as a choice: either you learn from it and grow, or you don’t (remaining fairly immature, despite any external evidence of worldly success).

I’ve mentioned this here before, but I’ve made it a practice to steer clear of unwise people. In fact, the Bible admonishes us to do so, warning us to “flee the presence of a fool”.

Perhaps you’re wondering, “how do I know if I’m in the presence of fool?” The answer is quite simple: the person is unwise. Being foolish according to biblical standards has nothing to do with your level educational attainment or professional success; rather, your behavior and treatment of others, and ability to meaningfully reflect and learn from past experiences are generally the best indicators of wisdom.

However, I must admit that I’ve learned the most from the fools who have come across my path. Also, sadly, there was a point my life when I was a (biblical) fool – knowledgeable, but not very wise. I’m not that way now, but largely because the Lord allowed some really hard and painful circumstances in my life. These events helped to surface the roots of foolishness in my own life, and enabled to me to more effectively identify the unwise and immature people who came my way.

Let’s be real: the foolishness will continue to come, but thankfully, it will be easier to spot. Also, the more that I grow and learn from my experiences, the more my perspective will be challenged and questioned by others – sometimes boldly so.

However, rather than focusing on the negative – avoiding the foolish people – I try to focus on the positive: seeking wisdom. This is 100% on me. If I’m not wise, then I can blame no one other than myself! And as I continue to learn and grow, I will be better able and equipped to 

  • regulate my emotions;
  • gauge my reactions to other people;
  • be attuned and observant to what is happening around me; and
  • filter anything I hear or see through the lens of the biblical truth.

There are other benefits that accrue from being wise, but these are the ones that come to mind just now.

After all, Solomom said it best in Proverbs 4: “Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do!”

Dear Lord, I thank You for the opportunities that You’ve given me to learn from my relationships and my experiences. Growth is a choice, and it’s a commitment that I must make and renew every day (sometimes every hour!). 

Thanks to You, I am a wiser woman than I was this time last year. Lord willing, I will be wiser still a year from now, due to whatever new experiences, people, and perspectives You choose to bring into my life. In Your name I pray, Amen.

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