There is a lack of wisdom in our culture and the evidence is all around us. I’ll often sit outside a local coffee shop to do work. Occasionally I’ll pause from my work and glance at the cars stopped at the light in front of me. I almost always see folks sitting there on their phones. Then, when the light turns, the majority of them drive off, still glancing up and down, finishing the text or social media post they had started.
Typically, it is obvious that these are smart, successful people. They’re not morons. But they do lack wisdom. I don’t say that judgmentally, because I do these types of things, too. It’s not that “those people” are fools. Rather, it’s that we as a culture have some foolish tendencies. Wisdom is lacking in some pretty significant ways. I contribute to this foolishness and I’m guessing that you do, too—in these 5 ways.
1. We want fast and cheap instead of good.
Fast food restaurants, Amazon, Walmart—none of these has succeeded because they are the best at doing what they do. They succeeded because they do it cheaper and faster and we love that. The consequences are significant, though: local, thoughtful, sustainable businesses flounder and fail while jobs are outsourced and automated to maximize profits. Meanwhile, you and I fill our bellies and our homes with junk we’ll eventually regret consuming.
Be wise: Commit to eating fast food no more than once a month. If quick meals are necessary, plan ahead by cooking nutritious meals in bulk and freezing them for fast prep.
2. We play zero-sum games.
Our culture is caught in a cycle of finger-pointing and vilifying people who disagree with our ideology. We have no patience for engaging in meaningful dialogue and disagreement, careful reflection or the willingness to learn and change. It’s “us” or “them.” This leaves us incapable of learning from people we disagree with.
Be wise: Build friendships with people who see the world differently and assume they may know something you don’t.
3. We value youth and beauty over wisdom.
The West is far more drawn to youth and beauty than to wisdom. We love folks who become wealthy and successful by the time they are 25. We are obsessed with beauty. The problem? The young often lack wisdom (you can be rich and foolish) and external beauty fades quickly (not to mention it’s subjective). Meanwhile, those who have lived many years and bear some scars have deep wisdom to offer if we have ears to hear.
Be wise: Where is there an older person in your life, a grandparent, neighbor or member of your congregation, with whom you could begin to build a friendship?
4. We prioritize safety over strength.
Obviously we want to keep our children safe, that’s part of our job as parents. However, we can go too far with this. We protect our kids from criticism, from feeling left out, from failure, from anything that feels like a struggle. And as we do this, we also protect them from developing the kind of strength that can help them face the challenges inherent to living life well. We’ve gotten it backwards.
Be wise: Next time your child encounters a challenge, avoid removing the obstacle and instead work with your child to develop strategies for scaling it.
5. We assume technology is value-neutral.
Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase, “The medium is the message.” That means the tools we use are not value-neutral. Whether it’s our smartphones, laptops, or social media, these tools are shaping us. That doesn’t mean they’re inherently bad, but it does mean that if we don’t pay attention to the impact technology has on us, sooner or later we will wake up to find we don’t like who we’ve become and we don’t know how we got here.
Be wise: Begin and end each day with 30 mins of screen-free time. You’ll think more clearly and fall asleep more easily.
We lack so little in our culture, but one thing is for sure—wisdom is lacking in significant ways, and wisdom is something we cannot afford to do without.
Sound off: In what ways do you see a lack of wisdom in our culture?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What is wisdom? Why is it important? How do we get it?”