Ninety years ago, in June 1919, World War I officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. French field marshal, Ferdinand Foch, famously said, “This is not Peace. It is an Armistice for twenty years.” He was out by three months! By September 1939 France was again at war with Germany.
A year earlier, in September 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned from meeting with Adolf Hitler in Munich saying, “…a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honor. I believe it is peace for our time.” Only one year later German bullets were killing British boys.
Prime Minister Chamberlain was undeniably an intelligent man. He had done far better in school and university than had Winston Churchill, yet it was Churchill who in the early 1930s knew that war with Germany was inevitable.
In politics, as in wealth creation and successful family life, wisdom is far more important than intelligence. This is great news because there is not much we can do to increase our intelligence, but we can certainly increase our wisdom.
Intelligence governs how quickly one tackles abstract ideas and how rapidly one assimilates and processes data. Doing this well is certainly helpful in many professions, but it only goes so far. Being wise means knowing how the world really works. Intelligence is largely hereditary while wisdom can be gained. I would like to impart to you the first three steps in gaining wisdom.
The first step is getting to know God.
The beginning of wisdom is fear of God.
Wisdom can be a powerful tool for both good and evil. Many people are motivated by their understanding of God’s wishes. Others act in ways intended to defy God. Much of life revolves around spiritual factors like love, trust, faith, optimism, and courage. Without an understanding of this spiritual side of life it is difficult to function effectively in the real world.
The second step in gaining wisdom is to eschew fantasy and embrace fact. Read quality non-fiction and accustom yourself to accept people and circumstances as they are rather than as you’d like them to be. Reduce the amount of time you devote to amusement. The word ‘amusement’ means ‘without thinking.’ (a = without, as in amoral; and muse = think) Instead, set aside regular ‘thinking-time’ appointments with yourself. This not only helps to grow your wisdom, it also makes you happier.
The third step, and yes I know this is very difficult, is to work on suppressing one’s emotions while trying to analyze a situation. Let me show you where the Bible elegantly demonstrates this point.
When Queen Esther invited Haman and the king to a banquet in her chambers (Esther 5:4), this prestigious invitation boosted Haman onto an emotional high. In his elated mood, being spurned by his nemesis, Mordechai, infuriated him. When he consulted with his friends (in the Hebrew, OHaVaV, which means ‘those who loved him’ and his wife (Esther 5:10) they giddily embraced both Haman’s euphoria and anger, advising him to hang Mordechai.
Shortly thereafter, Haman was humiliated by the king (Esther 6:10) and he again consulted his wife and friends (again, in the Hebrew text ‘those who loved him’) about this apparent reversal of his fortunes.
And Haman told his wife, Zeresh, and those who loved him, all that had happened, and his wise advisors and Zeresh his wife said to him….
Abandoning their emotional connection to Haman transforms his sycophantic lovers into wise advisors. They clinically examine the situation and with wisdom recognize the bad news that his star is descending (Esther 6:13).
Though you cannot increase your Intelligence Quotient, you can increase your Wisdom Quotient. The first three steps are: (a) invest time in learning to know and fear God; (b) strive to accept reality; and (c) separate your emotions from your thinking.
One of the most exciting projects I ever worked on was my audio CD, Tower of Power: Decoding the Secrets of Babel. It is a resource that truly explains some of the rules that God built into the world showing how the world really works. My prayer is that this teaching becomes a step on your road to wisdom.