“Wisdom is better than strength.” – Ecclesiastes 9:16
As a teenager growing up in a small farming community, my buddies and I would sometimes hire ourselves out during the summer months to local farmers to help them haul their freshly baled hay from the field and stack it in the barn. What always puzzled me back then was how those farmers who were forty or fifty years our seniors, could labor alongside us all day long, matching us bale for bale, and hardly break a sweat, while we strapping young high school athletes would be exhausted by the end of the day.
It was not until years later after I was well seasoned in my own career that I discovered the answer. While we were out there flexing our muscles, tossing those seventy-pound bales around with brute strength, those farmers had figured out how to get as much done using sort of a rhythmic finesse I cannot exactly describe, but that required far less effort. It was a great demonstration of what wisdom is.
Society, as it always has, admires physical strength, just as it does wealth, fame, and power, beauty, athletic ability, artistic talent, intellect, and academic achievements, to name a few. What is often overlooked, unrecognized by the masses, is wisdom. Even though it is more effective – like the farmers demonstrated – wisdom is not always heard, and wise people often go unheeded. Why is that I wonder?
Too often, I think, we use the words knowledge and wisdom interchangeably, and while the two characteristics are not mutually exclusive, neither are they synonymous; for not all highly knowledgeable people are necessarily wise, nor wise people those with the most knowledge. Knowledge is something we learn by being taught, either by other learned people or our own endeavors to study and learn. Wisdom, however, is something that must be discovered by experiencing life.
That was the great wisdom demonstrated by the farmers; for I suspect when they had been young men like we were at the time, they too were out there flexing their muscles, tossing haybales around with brute strength. But after years of experiencing life, they eventually discovered more effective ways of getting the job done with far less effort, realizing that “wisdom is better than strength” – always!