Although we value intelligence, the real measure of a person lies in his or her wisdom. Intelligence is raw and unripened. Wisdom, on the other hand, has been called the epitome of human excellence, an ancient and virtuous quality. If intelligence is knowing how to build a bomb, then wisdom is knowing how to build a bomb, understanding the ramifications of using it, and being able to solve problems in such a way that the bomb is not needed.
In some ways, wisdom is like beauty-we value it, we desire it, we know it when we see it, but it is nearly impossible to pin down such an ethereal quality. Yet researchers have tried. In the late 1980s, the Berlin Wisdom Project at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development set out to define wisdom. They came up with the following qualities, all of which a person must have to be considered truly wise, in their view.
– Intelligence and factual knowledge
– A deep understanding of human nature, including an empathy for people who are different or from other cultures.
– Emotional resiliency, or the ability to rebound from a setback
– The ability to learn from experience
– Openness, or the maturity to be comfortable allowing the world to see you as you really are
– Superior judgment and problem- solving skills
Put this all together and what do you have? A portrait of someone who’s been around the block. Wisdom accrues from experience, so it’s fair to say, you need to be older to be wise.
However, it should be pointed out: Not all older people are wise.
There are plenty who are painfully close-minded and set in their ways and their thinking.
In 2007, psychologist Jeffrey Dean Webster, MEd, of Langara College in Vancouver, British Columbia, updated the work of the Berlin Wisdom Project, adding the notion that true wisdom could only be measured by what you did with it, both in terms of self-knowledge and the improvement of society at large. In other words, the proof is in the pudding.
Webster’s Self-Assessed Wisdom Scale (SAWS) measures what he considered to be key traits of a wise person, including open-mindedness, the ability to control emotions, sense of humour, experience, and the ability to learn from the past.