Confucius and Socrates were by no means considered foolish. Instead, they were some of the most brilliant thinkers of their time. And yet, this is what they said:
Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance. -Confucius
One thing that I know, and that is that I know nothing. -Socrates
There was a king named Agur, the son of Jakeh. Nobody knows who he or his father was. But whoever he may have been, he was wise enough to write the 30th chapter of Proverbs. And how did he start off his chapter? With these words:
Surely I am more stupid than any man, and do not have the understanding of a man. I neither learned wisdom nor have knowledge of the Holy One.Proverbs 30:2-3
I think I have made some progress over the years. But compared to Confucius, Socrates, or even Agur, I have barely even scratched the surface. Whatever stores of knowledge I have accumulated has only led me to the realization that my pursuit is not complete. In fact, it will never be complete.
My wife often makes fun of me when I stumble while walking. Apparently, I do not have the highest stepping gait and fail to clear the obstacles in my path. I have yet to hit my face or go down to my knees, but I do occasionally come away looking like a baby giraffe. It could be worse…
Better to trip with the feet than with the tongue. -Zeno
For all the strides I make in wisdom, I have yet mastered control of the tongue. Poor attempts at humor have landed me in hot water more times than I can remember. Throwing little verbal jabs at others have hit their mark so well that I come away as a hot-headed fool. The amount of times I have tripped with my feet cannot even compare to the amount of times I have tripped with the tongue.
Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.Proverbs 29:20
Shakespeare said, “Go wisely and slowly, lest you rush, stumble, and fall.” This goes well beyond walking. The application of these words is wide-ranging. For me, it is best if I apply them first to my words. Nothing good comes from tripping with the tongue.
I came into the office and brewed my coffee. A colleague walked by and in a loud voice exclaimed, “Unclean! Unclean!” I took a moment to do a quick inventory. I took a shower this morning, put on freshly laundered clothes, and brushed my teeth. With no known illnesses and my self-assessment complete, I could only think, “What is wrong with this guy?”
I could go on about all the things I do not like about this man, but to pop off the way he did, I was ready to curse.
He who blesses his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it will be counted as a curse to him. -Proverbs 27:14
Maybe he thought he was being a blessing, but that is not how I interpreted it. And yet, when I read this verse, I must consider his actions a lesson. There is no good that can come from me cursing him. I must ignore him. And not wanting to be a curse to those around me, I will do my best to keep my morning greetings on the softer side.
What is the best way to destroy your enemies? Is it to ruin their reputation, to curse them, or to dothem violence? And if you do, will this make your better than them?
One hundred and fifty years ago, Abraham Lincoln said, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends.” Well, that is a unique way to deal with your enemies. A way not seen too often these days. But if they are your enemies, how do you make them your friends?
2,000 years ago, Jesus gave us this answer: “But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.”*
Love your enemies. That is no easy task, but it is possible. Do you need a starting point on how to do this? Then let us look to the advice Solomon gave us.
If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For so you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the Lord will reward you.Proverbs 25:21-22
There is so much I want for my son:
- Success in sports
- The opportunity for financial success
- The comfort and security of a nice home
- A good wife and even children of his own
How much of all of those “nice things” are really important? And yet, there is one thing above all else that I want for my son. One thing that would give me great joy. One, that is sweeter than all the others…
My son, if you heart is wise, my heart will rejoice—indeed, I myself; Yes, my inmost being will rejoice when your lips speak right things.Proverbs 23:15-16
Ever since I learned how to read, I have been infatuated with books. Reading is one of the greatest habits I have ever adopted.
And there are sports. From the time I could walk, I was playing some type of sport. I grew up amongst athletes, and it was their influence and example that shaped my life.
Charles Swindoll said, “Each day of our lives we make deposits in the memory banks of our children.” Reading and sports have a large holding in my memory bank. Along with the good, there is also a wide array of the bad. Maybe someday, I will share them as well. But not today.
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.Proverbs 22:6
I often wonder what will go into my son’s memory bank that he will carry throughout his life. But why should I wonder. I have an active part in his training. I might not know what he will do when he grows up, but I have a good idea of who he will be.
By example and through teaching, children need to be trained. For what they do in their youth is what they will carry with them into adulthood. It is not enough to leave their training in the hands of others. Parents must be the ones to train them.
“Run!” When it comes to a street fight, this is the advice of former Navy Seal Commander, Jocko Willink. It is such a simple concept. If a stranger(s) confronts you with the intention of violence, you should get away. You should run. Why? This person is unknown to you. You don’t know him or his capabilities as a fighter. You don’t know if he has any weapons. You don’t know of the possible accidents that can occur or the physical/legal repercussions such a fight could cause.
I fought a lot as a kid. I didn’t think of the ramifications. I only thought of my pride. I was a foolish child and thought fighting was a way to solve my problems.
It is honorable for a man to stop striving, since any fool can start a quarrel.Proverbs 20:3
It may not always come to fisticuffs. It may only be words and hard feelings, but any fool can start a fight. An honorable person, on the other hand, can imagine the end results of a fight. He can see how pointless it is. It is best for him to stop striving. And if that means running away, then run.
How long would it take to identify the fool in a room crowded with people? What criteria would you use in your selection process?
It doesn’t take long to identify him. You could even do it with your eyes closed. All you must do is listen. Listen to the one that can’t stop talking. He wants to be at the center of attention. He wants to share all the things he knows and believes. Is he interested in sharing truth or passing gossip?
A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own desire.Proverbs 18:2
What can be learned if we choose to only listen? How much can be gained if we aren’t continually speaking?
We heard it from Seneca: And what, you ask, is the fullest span of life? It is living until you possess wisdom. He who has attained wisdom has reached, not the furthermost, but the most important, goal.
And then there was the Chinese Proverb: A single conversation with a wise man is better than ten years of study.
And then a little closer to our own time were these words from Albert Einstein: Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.
How much better to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.Proverbs 16:16
Acquiring wisdom should be our priority. If given the choice between raising capital or conversing with a wise one, what would you choose? Are you willing to make a lifelong attempt to possess it? Fortune comes and goes, but wisdom is not so fickle. Once you get it, you will have it forever.
There is wisdom that has been passed down from our ancestors. From them and through our own experiences, we have learned:
- Touch fire and get burned.
- Eat the wrong food and get sick.
- Stir up a hornet’s nest and get stung.
When we were told not to do something and did it anyway, we paid the consequences, up to and including death. The instructions were not given to us out of spite. Rather, they were given to protect us. The more we listened, the better off we became.
The ear that hears the rebukes of life will abide among the wise. -Proverbs 15:31