Chelsea rolled up her sleeves so the cuffs wouldn’t get wet. She rinsed the sink and put in the plug. As the level of warm water rose, she mixed in the dish soap.
She began with the cleanest vessel; took a plate, dunked it in the water and scrubbed. Then she set it on top of another plate that had been washed somewhere between noon and now.
“Wait, Chelsea.” Her dad stood behind her with a tea towel, ready to dry. “Put the dry dishes away before you stack the rack with wet ones.”
Chelsea could think of a dozen ways to respond. ‘I help mom with the dishes way more often than you do, let me do it the way I’m used to,‘ she could say, or perhaps ‘we could just get a dishwasher and we wouldn’t have to worry about it.‘
But before she said anything, she paused to think. Then dried her hands, found the dishes in the rack that hadn’t been splashed, and put them away.
Lately, I read the book of Proverbs in the Bible. It’s incredible how much it says about wisdom. As I read, there were 2 recurring themes that really impressed me.
#1. Wisdom is acquired and expressed by listening
Proverbs 14 says this:
A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride, but the lips of the wise protect them.
Chapter 15 says this:
The heart of the righteous weighs its answers, but the mouth of the wicked gushes evil.
Skipping forward to chapter 17:
The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered. Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.
And one last verse:
The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.
Throughout these verses, the recurring theme is that the lips of the wise protect them. Instead of saying the first thing that comes to their mind, the wise weigh their answers. They use their words with restraint. This prevents them from blurting out something silly.
But there’s more to it than thinking about what we want to say before we say it. We should also listen to what the other person is saying.
I’m guilty of being far too eager for the other person to finish speaking so that I can speak. I’m guilty of being too bent on my own opinion to listen. Though I’m hearing their words, I’m not taking them to heart. I miss so many great opportunities to learn and grow in wisdom when I don’t listen.
The ears of the wise seek out knowledge. Wise people realize that they have much to learn and can benefit from listening to others.
Chelsea waited just long enough to reconsider saying something that could land her in trouble. She took her father’s words to heart and improved her dish-doing technique.
This leads to the second thing about wisdom that stood out to me while reading through proverbs.
#2. It is acquired and expressed by heeding advice
Again, let’s look at the book:
A fool spurns a parents discipline, but whoever heeds correction shows prudence.
A little further down:
Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise. Those who disregard discipline despise themselves, but the one who heeds correction gains understanding.
And chapter 16:
Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers, and blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD.
A rebuke impresses a discerning person more than a hundred lashes a fool.
Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.
Essentially, Chelsea’s father was showing showing her a way to be more efficient in the way she did the dishes. This was an opportunity for her to learn and grow. Originally, she was upset that her father wanted her to change her method, but she expressed wisdom by hedding his advice and learning from someone more experienced.
Chelsea took the chance to learn and grow.
- How much more could we learn if we were willing to listen to other people and heed instruction? This is a bit of a rhetorical question, but it’s open to discussion.
- Have you read the book of Proverbs? What stood out to you about it?
- Do you know some more experienced people in life who you can learn from? How can you get to know them better?
Resources for deeper digging
Psst! For more on:
- Wisdom personnified: Proverbs 1:20-33 and Proverbs 8 – the whole chapter
- “The tongue” as in our use of words and their effect: James 3:1-12. And, if you keep reading until the end of the chapter, the last few verses talk more about wisdom.
- How wise people do speak, as opposed to literally keeping silent all the time: Proverbs 15:2, Proverbs 15:4, Proverbs 15:7, Proverbs 15:26, Proverbs16:21, Proverbs 16:23, …
- Wisdom: the WHOLE BOOK OF PROVERBS. I’m serious. There’s sooo much to learn about wisdom in there, I can’t emphasize it enough.