I’m in the middle of reading This Odd and Wondrous Calling: The Public and Private Lives of Two Ministers, by Lillian Daniel and Martin B. Copenhaver.
In a chapter called Expertise and Wisdom, Copenhaver provides a definition of wisdom that resonates with me deeply. He says:
Before going further with this, I need to pause to say a word about what I mean by wisdom. It has been called the woolly mammoth of ideas — big, shaggy, and elusive. Philosophers, theologians, and social scientists have all found wisdom notoriously difficult to define. In part, this is because wisdom is more than a single attribute. It is more like a cluster of attributes, including a clear-eyed view of human behavior, coupled with a keen self-understanding; a certain tolerance for ambiguity and what might be called the messiness of life; emotional resiliency; an ability to think clearly in circumstance of conflict or stress; a tendency to approach a crisis as an intriguing puzzle to be solved; an inclination to forgive and move on; humility enough to know that it is not all about you; a gift for seeing how smaller facts fit in within a larger picture; a mix of empathy and detachment; a knack for learning from lifetime experiences; a way of suspending judgement long enough to achieve greater clarity; an ability to act coupled with a willingness to embrace judicious inaction.
A bit later, he continues, explaining the importance of community in cultivating wisdom:
Unlike expertise, wisdom is lived out in community. One can become an expert by solitary study. One could, for instance, become an expert in the mating habits of turtles by reading every published study on the subject and doing one’s own field study. Wisdom, by contrast, is not a solitary activity. Wisdom is formed in the ongoing life of a community and it is exercised in community. One cannot speak of wisdom without reference to human community.
I’m sharing this here because these words speak so eloquently about the nature of the community work I strive to do, and the role I strive to fulfill.