Recently I met a woman whose passion is to bring the art of etiquette back into the home.
At the top of her etiquette to-do list: manners.
In an age where “please” and “thank you” are viewed as old-fashioned formalities, she is still convinced children who are taught proper etiquette will be equipped with the knowledge to thrive as adults.
Concepts like manners and etiquette perhaps aren't valued the same as individualism and self-expression but the importance of these disciplines is (once again) becoming clear. It's interesting to me in such a technologically advanced era the “old ways” are proving continued relevance, despite our best efforts to make them redundant.
This reminds me of another conversation I had with a friend. She was relaying her experience of reading through the book of Proverbs and surprised at how applicable the concepts were to her life. “I've never read through the entire book before,” she said. “It's like a guidebook for my life!”
Despite being written thousands of years ago, Proverbs is still relevant. Intended to teach people how to live well, it focuses on five main themes: wisdom, relationships, speech, work, and success. The book is a collection of wise sayings repeated (again and again) in order to act as a guide to wise living.
One of those sayings I think of often is found in Proverbs 4:25-26: “Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; then stick to the path and stay safe.” Many times I've found myself in a situation where this passage reminded me to fix my eyes on where I'm going, and not allow myself to be distracted by whatever else is happening.
Whenever I read Proverbs I desire to become a wiser person. But how? A quick Google search reveals I'm not the only one wondering. Although obtaining wisdom is an ancient goal, it is no less important today.
In short, a person who is wise has the ability to take what he or she has learned from literature, experience, or others and apply it to his or her life. This means traits like honesty, open-mindedness, self-awareness, and critical thinking must be developed in order to become wise. Wisdom comes from the application of knowledge—not just knowing how to be wise.
If you have a desire to become wise, reading the book of Proverbs is a great start. But of course, there is no step-by-step formula or Wisdom for Dummies. Wisdom comes from a well-rounded life filled with experience, education, self-reflection, and self-confidence. It's like the old practice of gleaning—time-consuming and plain old hard work.
The Old Testament book of Ruth talks about gleaning. This now obsolete task was intended to provide for the poor in ancient Israel. Harvesters left any dropped grain as well as the grain growing on the edges of the field for the poor to “glean” after the harvesters passed through the field. The gleaners gathered the dropped heads of grain off the ground, and scavenged for whatever they could. Gleaning is a concept based in the belief that the land doesn't really belong to anyone other than God.
We could look at wisdom in the same way—Proverbs 9:10 says, “Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in understanding.” Wisdom and knowledge come from God, it's not ours to hold on to. Therefore, we should share our knowledge in order for others to glean. Since it never really belonged to us in the first place.
If you're wondering if you're on the path to wisdom, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Do you have a personal relationship with God? “As we know Jesus better, his divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life. He has called us to receive his own glory and goodness!” (2 Peter 1:3).
- Have you asked God? “If you need wisdom—if you want to know what God wants you to do—ask him, and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking,” (James 1:5).
- When criticized or rebuked do you retort quickly or do you listen to what is being said? “…If you reprove the wise, they will be all the wiser,” (Proverbs 19:25b).
- Can you honestly list your strengths and weaknesses or do you hide behind a blanket of defensive insecurity? “Since I know it is all for Christ's good, I am quite content with my weaknesses…For when I am weak, then I am strong,” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
Wisdom is a lifelong journey. But in the same way as manners have the ability to equip children to thrive as adults; wisdom gives us the ability to thrive in life.