This summer, I have been taking a Lifespan Developmental Psychology class for my Pre-Physical Therapy requirements. Each of the five weeks of class, we were asked to write opinionated discussion posts online. We were graded based not on our opinion but instead on the quality of our explanation. It was also mandatory that we cite a scholarly article in each of our posts.
All of the writing prompts were thought provoking and interesting to respond to. However, one question was particularly fascinating to me: How does a person attain a level of wisdom?
Most of my odyssey articles are opinion pieces or snippets of my life. I wanted to submit something unique that still held my voice and opinion but touched on a larger topic. Here is my response:
When approaching this discussion post topic, I thought about all the people in my personal life and in the world that I consider to be wise. I thought about Ernest Hemingway and his definition of courage as "grace under pressure." I thought about Nelson Mandela, who was wise enough to know that changing South African apartheid policies would require drastic action even at the cost of his own freedom. I thought about my Grandmama who always used to say that "nothing can't be solved with a little almond pound cake." That is a different kind of wisdom but it is wisdom all the same.
But one quote stuck out in my mind that seemed to encapsulate wisdom pretty well. Harper Lee wrote in To Kill a Mockingbird: "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it." I think that is what it means to be wise. You need to be able to see things from a perspective other than your own, and you need to value that other perspective just as much as your own.
In the Journal of Happiness Studies, wisdom is defined as having "a knowledge of facts but also a deep understanding of life, particularly with regard to intrapersonal and interpersonal matters, including knowledge and acceptance of the positive and negative aspects of human nature" (Ardelt and Bergsma 2011). In this journal, the authors studied the relation between happiness and wisdom. Their results were that wisdom and happiness had a positive correlation, when controlling for sex, age, and education.
It is often said that those who are happier, live longer. I'm not sure if this is scientifically proven but it would make sense why we often equate wisdom with older age. If the two are positively correlated, it is probable that a man who is happy will live longer and coincidentally, whether it is due to breadth of life experience or simply age, he may also be wise.
Those who gain wisdom by being open-minded to others' viewpoints will live a happier and longer life because they will have given themselves the opportunity to see all of the world's beauty and diversity
Bergsma, A., & Ardelt, M. (2011). Self-Reported Wisdom and Happiness: An Empirical Investigation. Journal of Happiness Studies,13(3), 481-499. doi:10.1007/s10902-011-9275-5