What’s The Difference Between Knowledge And Wisdom?

It’s no secret that the times we are in are…chaotic. Many of us are at an important crossroads: we can go back to sleep and forget what we’ve seen or we can answer the call and start making change now.

In this post, I want to give you a deep dive into a critical component to answering the call to change: wisdom. 

So, let’s start with the basics: What is wisdom? How does it differ from knowledge? And why the hell should you care?

 

Wisdom ≠ Knowledge

I believe one of the reasons many of us struggle through hard times is because we over-prioritize knowledge at the expense of wisdom.  This is true in our collective culture, our relationships, our professional lives, or our spiritual growth.

We love statistics and facts (knowledge), but we don’t take the time to metabolize what we’ve taken in (wisdom) due to lack of guidance or fear. We understand what needs to be done but struggle to really live it or see how it’s connected to other parts of our lives.

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with knowledge. It’s a critical component of our lives and our healing. It’s just not the end of the story.

 

Linear Versus Holistic

Knowledge is good for separating and dividing things into classes and categories, and has a fairly linear nature. Wisdom, however, has a feeling of wholeness or naturalness. Wisdom understands everything as interconnected and “inter-consequential” — that’s…probably not a word, but hey.

 

Wisdom is Embodied

In my definition, knowledge is strictly intellectual. It’s the facts. The science. It’s our conscious mind doing what it does best. But wisdom? Wisdom is the result of embodying your knowledge. Of turning experience, thinking, and feeling into something you are for the rest of your life.

A good example of all this can be found in the fact that I recently became a parent. I can’t tell you the number of books and articles on parenting I read, the number of people I listened to about fatherhood. The advice, the warnings, the facts. A lot of knowledge.

But until I became a father — until I experienced the mystery of becoming a parent and just how wild that is — it was just knowledge. None of what I read or listened to prepared me for that! And every day, what I learn is being transformed into lived experience.

 

Wisdom is Irrational and Mysterious

I mean mystery in the sense of “unknown” but also “unknowable”. The intuitive side of wisdom often seems irrational to the conscious mind. For example, when your gut kicks in and says, “something’s up” or “this isn’t sitting right”, even though everything seems fine.

You might never know exactly how or why your instincts kicked in, but the voice saying you should trust that instinct, that’s a form of wisdom talking.

The nature of wisdom is something philosophers, writers, and more have been talking about for a long time. To help us navigate our radically shifting work, I think it’s time we began reaching more for wisdom from one of the foremost cultural sources of it: elders.

And by elders, I don’t just mean “old people”, but rather people willing to embody and share wisdom.

So! I’ve got homework for you. I want you to reflect on two things:

  • What knowledge have you been working to metabolize? To embody?
  • Who might be able to support you in this area, or has already metabolized that knowledge?

These two questions have the potential to begin a journey towards real, embodied wisdom.

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