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The Love Challenge - the love of wisdom

Updated: Jan 7, 2020

The Love Challenge - Love of wisdom

Some would say that God is wisdom, so the love of wisdom is really the love of God, but there are people who love God but never grow in their faith and therefore never accumulate wisdom at all, but nevertheless keep loving God in a child-like way, while others don't believe in God but greatly love and are successful in a good portion of the pursuit of wisdom. Maybe at a higher level it is all one, but at the level humanity operates at present, these are still separate entities, exploring different parts of the whole and only in parts overlapping, so I'll keep them separate.

Now what is wisdom?

The definition out of Wikipedia is this: "Wisdom, sapience, or sagacity is the ability to think and act using knowledge, experience, understanding, common sense and insight. Wisdom is associated with attributes such as unbiased judgment, compassion, experiential self-knowledge, self-transcendence and non-attachment, and virtues such as ethics and benevolence."

It's a nice definition, but if you look at it closely, it also means that wisdom can be very different things to different people. So what is wisdom for me?

Maybe it depends on the situation. Maybe sometimes it is simply taking a higher perspective, and understanding how the parts in front of you fit into a greater whole, or, if you can't see the bird's eye view yet, surrendering to the process without wasting too much time and energy fighting what's in front of you. You may take what's in front of you as impetus to grow and change and creative input, but you don't waste energy fighting windmills.

Sometimes, wisdom comes in stories. The story of Joseph and his brothers out of the Bible is a great example.

The first question is how do you use a story like this wisely? When reading these stories, sometimes people like to assign characters to other people that make themselves look good, and the other person look bad, and locks them in a bad place, which is really just another form of blaming. They may cast someone else in the role of Potifar's wife, which incidentally also justifies their own behavior towards that person in past, present, and future and fulfills their needs in the short term, when really the truth may look very different. In fact, they may not be outside observers at all, but they may currently be filling the shoes of Joseph's brothers attacking Joseph. Or one may cast themself as Joseph, and the attackers as Joseph's brother's, when one is really another character in the story.

Or, you can accept what other people cast you as, which will probably not be Joseph. That, as bad as it may make you feel, may also fulfill some of your needs, but it may not bring you further if that character is really going nowhere in the story.

Or, you don't accept the casting, but you notice who others cast themselves as, and what they have cast you as, which may explain some odd behavior in the past and helps you anticipate the future.

Now, assume you don't just accept what other people try to cast you as, and, for the moment, you assume the role of Joseph. There are several interesting bits about it.

For starters, nothing what Joseph says is wrong. In fact, he may be a bit unaware of his brother's character flaws when he shares his enthusiasm, but if his brothers hadn't been so predisposed to jealousy and negativity, they could have seen Joseph's remarks simply as adorable bragging of their cute little brother, even if they didn't believe in the truth of it. Had they been full of love instead of full of themselves, they would have helped the father spoil him wrotten with their own gifts (while teaching him to pass them on to those in need and pay it forward). They could have been proud of their gifted little brother who elevated the family, while concentrating on developing their own gifts. When the good years came, they could have then remembered his dreams, helped him interpret them, saved up themselves and survived the lean years without hardship.

Instead, they interpreted Joseph's dreams as a cause to justify murder. The meaning they gave it came out of their own heads and fulfilled their needs, but it not only cost them a brother and 20+ years filled with love, laughter, and joy, but it cost a lot of their tribe and herd their lives and gave them a life of 20 years filled with hate, fear of being found out, and guilt.

Joseph, with all the injustice that came his way, probably had a better life.

The brothers, as much as they congratulated themselves and celebrated their "victory" at first knew they had done something wrong - that's why they never confessed to the father but pretended that some wild beast had taken Joseph. One of the brothers knew consciously that it had been wrong and felt remorse - but he didn't say anything. In his defence, it was probably the right choice, because had he confessed and outed his brothers, he would probably have ended up dead. But he paid for it with 20 years of guilt.

Joseph, on the other hand, could have lived the next 20 years filled with revenge, and thoughts of how to get back at them, and could have tried flee, confront his brothers, and force the truth out. But he didn't bother. He just moved on and focused on his career and his new life, probably hoping or knowing that he would see his father again. He didn't waste his breath or energy fighting the brothers. At first glance that looks like weakness, and you may wonder how he could let them get away with something this ugly, they should be brought to justice, should have been sued, the truth should have been shouted over the rooftops, etc. In today's world, the equivalent would probably be spending years in a law suit trying to get justice. And it looks like the right thing to do in the moment. But the truth is that Joseph would have wasted his resources and the goodness in him. He could have hurt the brothers like they hurt him, but he would never have made them see the injustice in what they had done, instead, they would have gotten more intrenched in their perception of their own righteousness. He would never have gotten their love, which is what he really wanted, by forcing them to see the evil in what they had done. They would have just shut their eyes and held on to their story.

Instead, he focused his energy on where he COULD do good. He never forgot who they were, and he probably spent a whole lot of time analysing their motives and personality, which is why he was so smart in dealing with them when they finally met, rather than running towards them with open arms and running into their knife again - remember, he didn't reveal himself immediately but actually resorted to some cunning and force, to force them to bring their father so they could be reunited. But he didn't spend his resources fighting windmills or crushing his enemies, once he had some power, because he had better things to do, more healthy things to focus on, which, in the end, benefitted everyone, and made him grow beyond anything he could have ever become had he stayed home and had his brothers (and sisters) been loving and accepting. And in the end, the truth came out.

The thing is, Joseph couldn't see this outcome in the cystern and in prison, or as a slave. All he could do was surrender to God and have faith that in the end, something good would come of it.

And that may well be what wisdom is.

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