How many times do you read of a key leader in our culture who is described as ‘really wise’? If you were to write down the top five words that you would want people to use to describe you, would ‘wise’ make it to your list? In all the major faiths and philosophical traditions wisdom has been understood a highly significant virtue, perhaps ‘the’ virtue to which a leader should aspire. It seems to me our culture, and our lives, are greatly diminished by our current undervaluing of this cardinal virtue.

Wisdom can be tricky to define, though we all know it when we encounter it. I think of wisdom as the ability to connect a deep understanding about the nature and structure of reality with a particular path of action. Wisdom works as we understand how the world actually works - that we have therefore have a deep epistemic humility - which is a fancy way of saying that we recognise that though we can know a lot about the world, our knowledge is always limited, biased and therefore must be open to revision and change as we grow and as we encounter more of the world. A wise person understands not just abstract laws of nature, or physics, but has a deep understanding about the nature of personal reality, of the mysteries of the human heart, an intuitive grasp of the almost limitless, yet strangely similar and patterned ways that people behave and relate. Now to be wise a person must be able to bring this knowledge to bear on a particular choice, or action. Wisdom becomes evident over time as we observe the outworking of this bringing together of knowledge and choice. My advice, or choice, is shown to be wise, or unwise, over time. What matters is that this choice results in human flourishing, in good outcomes, as these choices are made and lived in the world. 

Now, imagine being a person who is able to consistently make wise choices in all areas of life - organisation leadership, personal finances, marriage, parenting, friendship etc? Imagine the influence for good you can have on all those around you. Why not make the pursuit and development of wisdom one of your life goals? It is for me. I want to be someone who people come to because of my wisdom - that they sense that from me they will get a perspective and advice that will, if taken and acted upon, lead them on paths of flourishing and blessing. I have a long, long, long way to go, so I’d better get off this screen and get moving…