If I could have one wish in life it would be for wisdom.
A lot of money would be nice, but it won’t buy happiness. If you were to wake up tomorrow and discover you were the only person on earth, you wouldn’t spend the rest of your life gathering all the possessions you’ve always dreamed of; you would begin searching for another person with whom you could share life.
True happiness can only be found in having meaningful relationships with other people. This little axiom seems simple enough, but many of us find ourselves struggling with relationships that bring very little happiness. The reason? We lack wisdom to make good choices in how we relate to others.
Throughout each day we encounter other people, with family members, with coworkers, and with others that we meet along the way, such as the clerk at the checkout line. Each encounter is a “relationship moment.”
How we act toward, or respond to, another person when we have a relationship moment reflects the depth (or shallowness) of the wisdom we possess to make wise choices in relating to others.
I understand that wise choices do not guarantee happy relationships because it takes two to have a relationship. But I can say with certainty that poor choices in how we act toward, or respond to, others will inevitably lead to unhappy relationships.
I’ve observed that people who lack wisdom more often than not make poor choices in their words and actions toward others, and in the way they react to the words and actions of others toward them.
If both parties in a relationship lack wisdom to make good choices, the resulting relationship will, at best, be one of tolerance, and, at worst, bring misery to both of them.
On the other hand, if we have acquired a degree of wisdom to make good choices each time we have a relationship moment, we are more likely to develop meaningful, happy relationships.
Each time we encounter another person we need to draw upon whatever wisdom we possess to make good choices in relating to that person, and to do so no matter how that person is behaving or speaking to us. I know this is not always easy, but don’t let your frustration with another person be an excuse to throw wisdom out the window and behave or speak badly.
Wisdom begets wisdom. Each time you act wisely toward another person you strengthen your ability to do so in the future, and at the same time you are being a model for choosing wisdom.
Here is a short list of practical thoughts on wisdom that have worked for me. This is not magic. In fact, it is hard, disciplined mental work, but it does work if you work at it.
1. I am responsible for what I say and how I behave each day, no matter how badly I may feel.
2. I am responsible for creating my own happiness; others are not responsible for how I feel or whether I am happy.
3. Either I control my feelings or they will control me (my attitude needs to be guided by the thoughtful exercise of wisdom, not by the thoughtless expression of raw feelings.)
4. I cannot control the words or behavior of others, but I can control my own.
5. Sometimes I have the right to be angry, but that does not give me the right to be cruel.
6. Never grab a mad dog by the ears, or try to reason with an angry person.
7. Sometimes I need to forgive others before they ask or even if they don’t ask, while understanding that forgiveness does not mean I have to stay in a relationship.
8. Maturity is not about growing old, it is about growing in wisdom in how I relate to others.
9. The early years and circumstances of my life have profoundly influenced who I am, but I am responsible for whom I will become, based on the choices I make from this day forward.
And the one I try most to live by, “God grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”