Margaret Plews-Ogan in Big Questions:
I imagine that if I polled all of you about what qualities you selected as wise, we could create a long list of answers. Researchers have actually confirmed this, and the list includes things like compassion, ability to see the big picture, to put things in perspective, to see things from many points of view, to be able to reflect on and rise above one’s own perspective. Wisdom is different from intelligence. Intelligence seeks knowledge and seeks to eliminate ambiguity. Wisdom on the other hand, resists automatic thinking, seeks to understand ambiguity better, to grasp the deeper meaning of what is known and to understand the limits of knowledge. (Sternberg). Monika Ardelt is a modern wisdom researcher who has put all of these into a 3 dimensional model of wisdom: cognitive, reflective and affective. The cognitive dimension includes the desire to deeply know and understand things, including the limits of our knowing. The reflective dimension represents the capacity for self-reflection, and the capacity to see things from many perspectives. The affective dimension of wisdom is empathy and compassion. So, a wise person is one who desires to deeply understand things, who is humble and aware of the limitations of knowing, who can see things from many perspectives and avoids black and white thinking, and who radiates compassion.
…If no one can hand us wisdom on a silver platter, and we must discover this for ourselves through our own experiences, our own journey, what kind of experience might be the best teacher? I would argue that for all the downsides of adversity, just like necessity is the mother of invention, adversity is the seedbed for wisdom. What better teacher of compassion than one’s own experience of suffering? How better to learn humility than to make a mistake? And what better to discover the deeper meaning of one’s life than to face a circumstance that forces you to focus on that which is of most value to your life? An unexpected turn of events is likely to help us to understand the ambiguity and uncertainty in life, and the limitations of our own perspective. But what evidence do we have that adversity can lead to wisdom?