Wisdom is applied knowledge. Wisdom is about collecting information that can be integrated into the way we live our lives and the way we make choices. As we examine and observe thought patterns, we begin to notice what we think we know. Today is going to be wonderful because… Today is going to be awful because… We believe these determinations because of perceived facts when really our belief is a projection which may or may not actually happen. Decisions, for most of us, tend to be made based on perceived facts rather than actual facts; although we rarely know this. As we explore what it means to become what is needed for ourselves and others it can be helpful to discover the answer to the ages old question of Who are you?
In youth it’s our job to create an identity. We all create identity one way or another but the journey of an awakened soul is to identify with our benefactor qualities and minimize our faults. This becomes difficult because, unless we are very fortunate, the we and the people around us have formed our identities in response to traumatic, difficult or testing situations. Our consciousness tends to mimic those around us. This is why ordinary people sometimes join together to do horrific things to their neighbors. And while this seems logical at the time these strategies for survival tend to result in years of guilt, shame, and possible retribution.
As adults, our inward journey is to ascend past our habituated blueprint for avoiding pain and creating safety. If we don’t take this journey, we could find ourselves acting from the same hateful cruelty we see played out in the world around us. Until we accomplish this fundamental task of authentic identity, we will not discover the true mission of adulthood which is being other oriented. Without the inward journey our life will result in failure after failure and heartbreak after heartbreak within relationships of all kinds until we awaken. Spirit does not solve our problems or answer our questions. Spirit leads us closer to the mystery of our existence where all questions cease.
Perhaps the most necessary qualities for being an adult are compassionate caring and generosity of spirit. If we have not created a strong inner core of knowing who we are, that we are worthy, that we are loveable, caring can easily become martyrdom. Martyrdom, eventually, leads to resentment and anger. The greatest temptation in life is to be resentful because things do not turn out the way we expect, and people don’t behave how we want them to behave.
Compassion results in service, in willing sacrifice, in the discovery of how to make things better than they are. Generosity arises when we have the wisdom to see that we are all in this life together and if we do not support one another violence, hatred, and betrayal are the result. In God We Trust is a motto emblazoned on our money so, how many of us trust in our money instead of Spirit?
Wisdom is the ability to find wholeness in life after things fall apart. It means listening to those who have insights to share. Sometimes we take a spoonful of the great wisdom offered by a spiritual teacher and decide that’s all we need. Unfortunately, people also come to hear teachings and decide they approve of it or disapprove of it, believe it or disbelieve it, instead of gathering the wisdom, testing it, and waiting until life creates a circumstance in which that knowledge makes perfect sense.
It’s a rare life that unfolds in a neat and tidy way. A child is sometimes as capable of finding and sharing the wisdom and the beauty of life as someone who has lived 100 years. The conclusion we can draw is that a life well lived, a life that is thriving needs us to discover our true identity, our caring heart, and the wisdom to let go of guilt in order for our lessons to be learned.
Finding the wisdom to become what is needed for the self AND others is sometimes as clear as mud. We may know what we need only to discover that fulfilling that need will cause harm to others. And conversely, we might be wholeheartedly engaged in service to others and find that we are burned out and empty. Determining how to be wise for the self and others at the same time can be an onerous task. It’s a challenge for the devout and courageous soul.
We are here to learn to minimize the harm we create and to forgive ourselves our ignorance and conditioning (habituated reactions), while working to recognize and change the things we can. Understanding our tendencies both beneficial and harmful allows us to start the process of liberation. We begin with forgiveness of self for not knowing…we can start to forgive others by taking back into our heart what we believe was taken from us. Forgiveness is understanding…not excuses, condoning, or disregarding the pain we have suffered, or the pain we have caused. Forgiveness is understanding that to be liberated we have to begin again, and again, and again to do better next time.
May we find the wisdom to become what is needed for ourselves and others. There is no model of success, no way to always know what is the right thing to do. Therefore, we create caring, we create love, we act from generosity, and we remain true to our identity as a spirit, we grow wise from our mistakes, over, and over, and over again.