Tag Archive for wisdom

The Kids Aren’t All Right: Part 2–Room to Grow

Grace has been defined as unmerited favor, or getting something that you don’t deserve.

 

One way that we can show grace to others is by simply giving them room to grow.  This holds true for anybody, but especially for kids, since growing is their primary function.

 

It can be difficult for us as adults and parents to remember that kids are a work in progress.  They aren’t where we are yet.  They lack the life experience to have accumulated the wisdom that we have, and their pre-frontal cortices have not yet fully developed, which renders them inadequate to know what to do with the wisdom that they have acquired.

 

For this reason, I have often surmised that youth is wasted on the young.  Why do they have all the energy with none of the wisdom?  It seems that by the time we figure out what we’re supposed to be doing with our lives, we’re too tired to do it!

 

Of course, we never really stop growing.  Our bodies do, but our minds shouldn’t.  There is always something new to learn, as long as we don’t shut ourselves off from new learning.

 

As a parent, I can testify that a lot of the learning I have done in recent years involves learning to BE a parent, which in a lot of ways, includes re-learning how to be a kid.

 

We forget, don’t we?  We forget what it’s like to learn one thing and then think we know everything.  We forget the days when we used to put paramount importance on what other people thought of us.  We forget that we didn’t realize that the world actually didn’t revolve around us until somebody told us so, and even then, we had to be told more than once.  For that matter, we forget that we had to be told pretty much everything more than once.

 

Most of all, we forget all too easily how much we depended upon the approval of our parents.

 

 

So teach your children gently.  Just because they may act as if they know it all, you can’t assume that they know anything you haven’t told them.  Or that you’ve told them only one time.  Or that you’ve told them multiple times if there was anything in the room with a video screen on it.

 

And please practice giving your kids room to grow.  They’re not going to get things right every time.  However, if you don’t encourage them by letting them know that your love isn’t conditional upon their performance, then they’ll just stop trying.  Mistakes are learning opportunities for them and teaching opportunities for you.

 

And when you teach, you also learn.

 

DN=: Part 11–Backwards

 

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

George Santayana—The Life of Reason

 

All that is not eternal is eternally out of date.  C.S. Lewis

 

 

Back in the Empty Glass series, we talked about three ways of learning.  There is experience, or making your own mistakes and learning from them.  Then there is wisdom, which is learning from someone else’s mistakes so as not to repeat them.  And then there is common sense, which is collective wisdom that has taken root in a population.

 

Looking at this progression, it is easy to see that common sense is a product of people building upon what has gone before.  It is the sum of the mistakes and the corrections of previous generations.  It would logically follow, then, that to employ common sense in one’s reasoning, one must look backwards to history.

 

Nevertheless, our culture inexplicably does not seem to value this type of reasoning anymore.  The so-called “progressive” ideology dictates that everything that exists must be changed in the name of moving “forward.”  Whether it was working well or not is immaterial.

 

But common sense declares that if you have made a wrong turn, forward is not your best option.  To get back on the road you want to be on, you’ll have to go backwards until you reach the spot where you made the wrong turn.  THEN go forward.

 

Obviously, you can’t go forward and backwards at the same time.  Therefore, by completely ignoring (or worse yet, attempting to modify) history, a “progressive” mentality completely precludes any potential for common sense to be employed. This makes failure a virtual certainty.

 

The primary reason that Truth Mission exists is to declare war on this intellectual futility.

 

Truthseekers proclaim God and His Word as the source of all Truth, which is unchanging and applies equally to all people in all situations.  Truth never fails, because God never fails.

 

Understanding this, it then becomes clear why Christians look to the Bible for answers when life poses difficult questions.  The Bible has an example for nearly any situation we can encounter in terms of which strategies work and which ones don’t.  Because the Bible is the ultimate source of correction, it will always improve our situation if we heed that correction.

 

More importantly, however, because God’s Word is eternal and unchanging, the lessons to be learned therein will always have value, regardless of the circumstances of the world or our individual situations.

 

ETERNAL DN= OUT OF DATE

 

As we have already noted, one cannot go backwards and forward at the same time.  Therefore, anyone obsessed with moving forward at all costs misses the opportunity for the course correction that only history and Truth can provide.

 

Since one with such a worldview only sees the Bible as a musty old book, and not God’s eternal Truth, the further “forward” they go, the smaller Truth becomes in their rearview mirror.  Since they consider everything behind them “out-of-date,” then the Truth and all who proclaim it become, in their minds, “backwards.”

 

So forward they go, until inevitably, they find a tree in their path, yielding the all-too-predictable result. Busted face notwithstanding, their pride remains intact, since that was what led them forward in the first place.

 

In the absence of the common sense that has been left behind, this pride initiates the blame game by rationalizing: “I am superior to the backwards thinkers, yet I have a busted face.  Those to whom I am superior do not have busted faces; therefore, it must be their fault that my face is busted.  Indeed, they are likely the ones who planted this tree to prevent me from going forward.  I should have the freedom to walk wherever I choose without having to worry about my face being busted!”

 

(So what’s the problem with freedom of choice?  Come back for Part 12–Civil Liberties)

 

DN=: Part 7–Hatred

 

I gain understanding from your instructions,
so I hate anything that leads people the wrong way.

Your word is like a lamp that guides my steps,
a light that shows the path I should take.

Psalm 119: 104-105 ERV

  

In Part 6, we discussed the difference between exercising sound judgment and being judgmental.  But how does this play out in the course of our daily lives?  Maybe it would be best to illustrate with a story. (ALLEGORY ALERT!!!)

 

THE MAZE

 

You feel the panic start to rise in your throat as the door closes behind you.  You hadn’t counted on the maze being pitch black.  Of course, you might have known that if you had actually read the book, the book you carried into the maze with you, now useless in the darkness.

 

You slow your breathing and try to recall the directions you were given just moments ago.  The shortcut.  In your mind’s eye, you focus on his penetrating, bloodshot stare and force his words to echo in your brain again, the words that were carried to you on breath that smelled of spoiled meat and rotten eggs.

 

“Don’t bother with the book; there’s a better way,” he had said.  He had appeared out of nowhere as you stood at the entrance, trembling with a mixture of nervousness and excitement.  Before you had recovered enough from your surprise, and momentary revulsion at the smell, he had continued.  “The shortcut.  Take you right to the middle.”  Where the prize waited.  The greatest prize ever won.

 

You don’t know exactly what the prize is, because again, you never found the time to read the book.  You had meant to, of course.  Ever since the day you received it from your parents, the maze had been on your mind.  The maze with the prize at the center.  But life always seemed to get in the way, and the days got away from you one by one.

 

And now here you are in the dark, with the sound of your blood rushing in your ears, trying to drown out that sound with the memory of the foul-smelling man’s directions.  “Fifty paces from the entrance, turn left.”  You take a deep breath, let it out slowly, then begin.

 

With your left hand on the wall to guide you, you walk 50 steps.  Sure enough, there is a corner.  You turn left and continue.  “150 paces, right, 75 paces, another right, and then another, then a left. . .”  You repeat the man’s directions aloud over and over, trying to focus on where you are, and trying not to think about the pits.  You weren’t sure if they actually existed, but you had heard stories.  You absently think to yourself that if you had actually opened the book you might know if they were real or not.  Doesn’t matter now, because. . .

 

Suddenly your left hand is grasping at air.  The wall has ended on your left.  You freeze.  After just a moment, you realize you must be in some sort of chamber rather than a corridor.  No problem, just keep walking straight ahead.  Another 10 paces, 20, 30, still no wall on the left.

 

The fear begins.  You wonder if you are still walking a straight line, or if you have drifted to the right.  Are you still where you need to be, or in a different corridor entirely?  In this darkness, you could be walking in a circle and not even know it.  You freeze again, trying fruitlessly to get your bearings.  Then a new horror dawns upon you—you have lost count of your steps.

 

The fear rapidly accelerates to blind panic.  You start groping in all directions with both hands, trying to find a wall.  Nothing.  You are hopelessly lost.  Now you can’t even remember if you were supposed to go 200 steps in this direction or 300.  And which direction was that even?  You have no idea which way you are facing in the darkness.  On instinct, you open the book to try to find something, anything that might help, even as the small voice of reason under the torrent of panic in your mind tells you that it is pointless to try to read anything in this blackness.

 

But then, something amazing and totally unexpected happens.

 

The floor in front of you lights up.  Just two steps in front of you, like a black, yawning mouth, you see the pit.  Trembling, you look down at the book and see something even more astonishing on the page where you opened it:

 

You shouldn’t have listened to that guy back at the entrance.  He’s never made it through the maze.  Now turn around.

 

How can this be happening?  You don’t have an answer for that, so instead, you turn to look behind you, and see that you are indeed in a large open space.  Off to your right, you see dim light coming from a corridor.  The floor is lit up there too.  You walk to that corridor and proceed down the lighted path.  After about 180 steps, it ends abruptly in another dark chamber.  You stop.  From the glow of the light behind you, you look at the book again, only now it simply says:

Are you going to stand there all day, or are you going to turn the page?

 

You turn the page, and immediately another corridor lights up to your right.  You look around and notice that there were many paths to choose leading off this chamber.  On the page, you see directions to walk down the lighted corridor to the T-intersection, and then turn right.

 

You begin down the corridor.  This is the longest one yet.  You can’t see the end, because the light on your path only extends about 100 feet in front of you.  As you begin to wonder just how long this corridor is, you come to another, smaller chamber.  From the dim glow of the path, you notice a sign on the wall.  It says:

 

PROCEED DOWN THIS CORRIDOR TO THE T-INTERSECTION, THEN TURN LEFT!

 

You stop and look at the book again, thinking you must have read it wrong.  But no, it definitely says to turn right at the T.  So which is it?  Left or right?

 

Now you have a decision to make.  “OK, let’s be logical about this,” you say to yourself aloud.  You reason that either way, you still have to go to the end of this corridor, so you take a deep breath, mutter, “Here goes nothing,” and step forward.

 

As soon as you have taken the first step, the entire corridor lights up, and you can see all the way down to the T at the end.  Relieved, you sprint all the way to the end.  But then you remember the problem—left or right?

 

You look to the right first—nothing but darkness.  Then you look to the left.  As soon as you do, bright overhead lights come on illuminating that entire passageway.  Down at the end, you can just make out a flashing green arrow pointing to the left underneath flashing red neon letters that say, “THIS WAY!”

 

You look back to the right.  Still just darkness.  Then you remember something the man back at the entrance of the maze had said:

 

That book is so out of date it’s completely useless.  It’ll have you wandering around in there lost until you starve to death.  The people who wrote it are the ones who built the maze to begin with!  Why would they want to share their prize with you?  They just want to lead you around like a sheep and keep you away from what you rightfully deserve!  People have been getting through the maze with my shortcut for years.  If that book worked, EVERYONE would use it!

 

You look back to the left.  Level ground, straight path, clear line of sight.  The choice seems obvious.  You decide to follow the sign and go to the left.

 

One step, then two, then three . . . nothing happens.  Ten more steps.  Still nothing.  You glance behind you.  Still dark going back that way.  You continue forward, more quickly and confidently this time.  Absolutely nothing changes.  Then you reach the end where the arrow points to the left.  You turn to face the direction where the arrow is pointing.  And your jaw drops.

 

Because just 50 yards in front of you, you can see a large, well-lit chamber.  And in the middle of that chamber is a pile of gold bricks as large as a haystack, shimmering in the light.

 

“I knew it!” you shout and tear off down this last corridor as fast as you can, the prize getting closer with every stride.  Twenty yards away, now ten, now five, then SMACK!!!

 

You hit the clear glass wall at top speed, knocking out your front teeth, shattering your nose and rendering you unconscious.

 

You wake up a few moments later, battered and bleeding, and you see the book lying next to you where it landed when you fell, upside down and fanned out to the last page.  You pick it up, and through a haze of throbbing pain, you read the words on the last page:

 

You should have turned right.

 

You feel the anger welling up inside you like a geyser, taking the place of the pain in your face.  As you picture the authors of the book smirking at you, the anger quickly morphs into hatred.

 

“How DARE these self-righteous dirtbags tell me what I did wrong!” you shout, spraying blood droplets all over the corridor.  In your rage, you throw the book against the wall, where it falls to the floor.

 

On the back cover, which you had never really looked at before, you see the publisher’s blurb in gold capital letters: “THROUGH THE MAZE, the newest masterpiece from the authors of BUILD A BETTER LIFE BY NOT WALKING INTO TREES!”

 

You remember that book, and all the people you thought needed a copy of it.  As you become aware again of the pain of your busted face, you sense the irony of the situation, and your hatred and anger quickly subsides.

 

After a few minutes, when your nose has stopped bleeding and your breathing has returned to normal, you remember something else.  When the book directed you down a dark path, it always lit up AFTER you took the first step.  You walk over, pick the book up off the floor, and turn again to the last page.  You start to wonder if maybe you should have turned right.

 

You walk back to the flashing sign with the arrow, turn right and look back the way you came to the T.  It’s still dark down there at the end as before, but you decide to do what you must do.

 

You backtrack to where you had made the wrong turn, and step into the darkness.  This time, you are not surprised when the floor in front of you lights up.  You are not even fazed when the well-lit corridor from which you have just emerged is plunged into darkness.

 

You look ahead, and see that the corridor ends just a short distance away at a door.  On the door is fastened a page written in the same lettering as the book you are carrying with you.  It reads:

 

To be counted among the wise, you must learn to accept helpful criticism.

If you refuse to be corrected, you are only hurting yourself.  Listen to criticism, and you will gain understanding.

Wisdom teaches you to respect the Lord. You must be humbled before you can be honored. (Proverbs 15:31-33 ERV)

 

And you finally realize that wisdom IS the prize.  You open the door, exit the maze and breathe the fresh air outside.  You hear a boisterous cheer and realize that a large crowd has gathered at the exit and are celebrating your victory.  A nurse appears, leads you a short distance away, and begins tending to your busted face.

 

From where you are seated, you can see the entrance to the maze.  You see two people talking near the entrance.  One appears to be giving directions to the other.  The second then walks toward the entrance with a mixture of fear and anticipation on his face.  Then the other turns toward you . . . and you see that it’s HIM!  The one who tried to sell you on the shortcut.  He recognizes you and grins evilly.

 

Immediately, in your mind, you hear his sneering voice and all the hateful words he said about the book and its authors.  Your anger starts to rise again, only this time instead of swelling into hatred, it solidifies into a sense of purpose.

 

You excuse yourself and run toward the other young man who is about to enter the maze.  You catch him by the elbow, startling him, and hand him the book.

 

“Here,” you say.  “You’ll need this.”

 

He scoffs in disgust and says, “I don’t need your stupid book!  I’ve been training for this for years!  I’ve been coached personally by the world’s leading experts on this maze!”

 

He’s pointing over your shoulder behind you, but you don’t even turn around, because you know at whom he is pointing.  But he’s not done yet.  With a deranged look in his eye and spittle flying from his lips, he goes on.

 

“Who do you people think you are walking around here trying to push your views down everybody’s throat?  What kind of an ignorant fool would write a book like this anyway?  And who in their right mind would publish it?  Sure, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, but the people who wrote this are clearly prejudiced idiots.  They’re just trying to pass off their hatred and bigotry as concern for people trying to find their own way through the maze.  That book is an embarrassment.  It makes me want to vomit!  It’s disgusting.  But you know what?  The writers have every right to expose themselves as total morons.  Out here in the light of day, everybody can see what they really are.  They have absolutely no regard for their fellow man!  I’m just glad they’re in the minority and most people don’t think like they do!”

 

Then he folds his arms and smirks at you.  You start to react, but then you catch yourself and remember, “You must be humbled before you can be honored.”  Your anger subsides, and is replaced with compassion.

 

You offer him the book again, saying, “Please take it.  This is what helped me get through the maze.  If you don’t. . .”

 

But he cuts you off with a left-hand wave.  Shaking his head condescendingly, he turns his back on you and walks again toward the entrance.  Then he looks back over his shoulder and offers this parting shot:

 

“You people would be hilarious if you weren’t so pathetic.  You trying to warn me with that book is about as scary as a kindergartner telling me I’m not getting any presents from Santa this year!”

 

Sadly, you realize that you have done all you can do, and you watch him enter the maze.

 

You return to where the nurse is waiting and say to her, “You might want to stick around.  I think you’ll be having another customer directly.”

 

The moral(s) of the story:

 

1.      WISDOM DN= PREJUDICE
2.      MAJORITY OPINIONS DN= TRUTH
3.      CORRECTION DN= HATRED

 

Don’t secretly hate any of your neighbors. But tell them openly what they have done wrong so that you will not be just as guilty of sin as they are.  Forget about the wrong things people do to you. Don’t try to get even. Love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.  (Leviticus 19:17-18 ERV)

 

(More on this in Part 8—Hate Speech)

 

Empty Glass: Part 3–Arrogance

 

Remember that common sense is just collective wisdom.  Collective wisdom, in turn, is a bunch of people that have had the same wisdom poured from the same pitcher INDIVIDUALLY into their empty glasses. 

 

Only some people don’t receive the wisdom.  This is because their glass has a lid on it.  The lid is called. . .

 

Arrogance

 

Arrogance usually comes about in this way.  A person with an empty glass gets their first sample pour from a good pitcher.  They taste and see that it is good.  Then the person with the pitcher offers to fill their glass.  Instead of accepting, however, the arrogant person says, “No, I’m good,” and slaps a lid on their half-full glass. 

 

They could have acquired more knowledge, but they shut themselves off.  Instead, they zealously protect the incomplete knowledge they do have as if to say, “My water is better than YOUR water.” 

 

If you did this with an actual glass of water, two things would eventually happen.  First, over time, the water in your glass would get stale.  Second, with the lid on your glass, you can’t even drink the stale water that you have.  So you get thirsty again.  Even worse, you can’t get any fresh water with the lid on your glass either.

 

In the same way, clinging desperately to incomplete knowledge makes your mind go stagnant. 

 

Face it—the world is going to progress whether you do or not.  For this reason, if your knowledge is at a standstill, it is actually going backward.  If there ever was a time when the arrogant person DID have superior knowledge, it didn’t stay that way for long.

 

Worse, the arrogant person is incapable of obtaining any new knowledge to supplant the old as long as he has the lid clamped down on the glass of his mind.  So the arrogant person becomes as thirsty as he was when he was ignorant. 

 

The key difference, however, is that the ignorant person knows that he is thirsty.  He will seek out a new pitcher, and is prepared to RECEIVE.  The arrogant person, on the other hand, refuses to admit his thirst and remove the lid, which is keeping his old knowledge contained. He is therefore unable to receive.

 

As such, the state of the arrogant man becomes worse than the state of the ignorant man.

 

(It gets worse.  Come back for Part 4–Stupid.)

 

Empty Glass: Part 2–Experience

 

Ever drink a tall glass of cold milk on a really hot day?  It feels good going down, but do you notice that you get thirstier faster afterwards?  Some drinks meet your needs better than others in some situations.  

 

Sometimes, we meet people with pitchers that are more than happy to share the knowledge they have.  But sometimes we find out that what they have poured us doesn’t taste so good.  Maybe it’s a couple days past the expiration date.  Maybe it’s even poison that will make us sick. 

 

We all encounter people that will tell us things that are not beneficial.  If we do not know any better, we will act on this false knowledge and suffer the consequences.  This process of learning from our own mistakes is called…

 

Experience!

 

Experience is one of those things that is good to have but sucks to get, on account of there is frequently pain involved, be it physical or emotional. 

 

Wouldn’t it be nice if someone else could get the experience, fill up a pitcher with that and then pour us a glass of what they learned so we don’t have to make the mistakes they already made?  Well, that does happen, though  perhaps not nearly as often as it should.

 

If learning from your own mistakes is “experience,” then learning from someone else’s is. . .

 

Wisdom!

 

Wisdom is far superior to experience, because there is no progress without wisdom.  Without wisdom, mankind would be caught in an endless loop of making the same mistakes and not learning anything from them.             

 

Imagine a line of people walking toward a tree.  The first person walks into the tree and busts his face.  If experience were superior to wisdom, then each person in the line would have not only an opportunity but a duty to take his own turn walking into the tree and busting his face.

 

Wisdom, on the other hand, lets the second person in line say, “I don’t really want to bust my face.  I think I’ll walk around the tree.” 

 

Accordingly, the third person in line, who has observed one person busting his face and one not busting his face, is able to conclude logically that not having a busted face is the preferable option.  Furthermore, he can also conclude that the logical route to the desired result of the unbusted face is completed through the conscious action of walking around the tree. 

 

Therefore, the third person also walks around the tree, and the rest of the line follows.  Thus, wisdom is passed on to posterity and becomes…

 

Common Sense!

 

Likewise, in life, if an ignorant person seeks out “knowledge” that leads to a bad result in his life, common sense dictates that those who follow after would do well to seek another source of knowledge.  After all, bad knowledge can not come from a good source (or vice versa).  If the knowledge proves false, then so is the source of the knowledge.

 

Common sense  calls out the bad source for what it is and advises not going back to that source for knowledge.  Common sense has been brought to fruition when NOBODY goes back to that source for knowledge.

 

But that isn’t the way it works in real life, is it?  Nope, no matter how many have followed the common sense example of the second person and walked around the tree, there’s always some ignoramus who insists on getting out of line and walking into the tree.

 

(Why does this happen?  Find out in Part 3–Arrogance)