Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding.
The terms Wisdom and Understanding are often teamed up in the Bible. God asked Solomon what he wanted, and Solomon asked God for an understanding heart to judge right, and the ability to discern between right and wrong.
Wisdom is the quality of discernment, to tell right from wrong. Understanding is related, and slightly different. Where wisdom is a deep-seated inner knowing of what is right, what is correct, and what should be done, Divine understanding is an intuitive knowing of how and why things come together. It is as if we can see all the constituent parts as meaningful, clear, and complete.
Human understanding is all about the head: knowledge and information. Albert Einstein was interviewed and said this: “Every man knows that in his work he does best and accomplishes most when he has attained a proficiency that enables him to work intuitively. That is, there are things which we come to know so well that we do not know how we know them. So it seems to me in matters of principle. Perhaps we live best and do things best when we are not too conscious of how and why we do them.”
There is a point where we know something so well that we no longer have to concentrate in order to perform a task at a high level. We seem to do it automatically, beyond the level of our conscious mind. We have moved from the logical reasoning left hemisphere of the brain to the right hemisphere where intuition and creativity reign supreme. We can be in this superconscious state when we are dealing with people, working on a construction site, or just about performing any task or responding to any situation.
When we apply this state of mind to belief systems or attitudes, or ideas, we call this moving “from the head to the heart.” An idea has moved to our hearts when we stop verbalizing a thought, concept, or idea, and start expressing it naturally with our lives. We stop thinking it and start living it. When we finally live a concept, we understand it in the Divine sense.
There is an Arabian Proverb that I like:
He who knows not and knows not that he knows not is a fool; avoid him
He who knows not and knows that he knows not is a student; teach him.
He who knows and knows not that he knows is asleep; wake him.
He who knows and knows that he knows is a wise man; follow him.
I like the saying, “He who knows but does not do, does not yet know.” We can intellectualize something, understand all the parts and know the ‘who, what, where, when, why, and how’ of something – we can even explain it and teach it to others…and still not apply it. That is the limitation of human understanding. It is this limitation that makes us susceptible to the wily ways of the ego and the difficulties we encounter in life. We can know, but not do.
Proverbs 3:5-6 teaches us: Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
God asks us to move from our heads, from our own understanding to our hearts, to Divine Understanding.
It sometimes seems to me that there are situations where God wants us to make just one decision, and then stick to it. I’m not going to steal. I’ve made a commitment to that. So when temptation occurs around that, I’ve already made the decision that I’m not going to take something that doesn’t belong to me. Is it because it’s wrong or a sin or immoral? Perhaps, but it’s really because I have decided that I am not going to steal. I’ve decided that I am going to be loyal to Mary. So when temptation occurs, and men know that it always will, my decision has already been made. I’m not going to cheat on my wife or my taxes, or swear in public, or smoke, and the list goes on and on.
We have all made one decision on many things in our lives. Our problems come when we haven’t made a decision and the ego says, “Yeah, but you know you really want to do it, Patrick. Come on what’s it going to hurt to do it just this once? No one is getting hurt.”
It is easy to fall prey to our human understanding. So instead of making one decision, every time that situation comes up we have to consider the options again, do I or don’t I? We encounter the turmoil and conflict. That is all in the head – at the human ego level. It has not dropped to the heart level, the Divine, solid, and deep level.
Part of understanding is knowing that as human beings we are influenced by proximity, exposure, and time. As a married man I understand that if I allow myself to be around a woman other than my wife for great amounts of time, day in and day out, over the years, the temptation to cheat increases.
Now before you say phooey, consider why so many affairs happen at work, between bosses and employees, college teachers and students – time, exposure, and proximity. The same is true with social influences of all kinds. We may not swear, but if we are constantly around people who swear, we have a greater tendency to start swearing, or smoking, or spitting, or stealing. Isn’t this why, as parents, we want to control our children’s environment? My Dad once told me that he thought the most important job he had was to pick my friends – to control my environment.
And the same is true with God: the more time we spend in prayer, contemplation, and meditation, or at least in silent conversation with God, the closer we become to the Presence, and the more influence it has over us: Time, Exposure, Proximity.
Proverbs 13:20 says it this way - He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm. We know this to be true, yet we sometimes allow ourselves to be swayed by the ego, trapped by our human condition that leads us into temptation. Instead of making that one decision not to swear, we disregard or overestimate our abilities to resist the human condition, and we hang out with people who constantly swear. It should not be a surprise when we find ourselves swearing a couple months down the road. When we frequently allow ourselves to be placed in situations that demand the greatest self-discipline to resist temptation, we are tempting fate. The odds are against us. We are making our way rocky and difficult.
The simple solution is to avoid those situations – walk with the wise, not the fools.
Satan, get behind me, said Jesus. In other words: “Ego, stop badgering me. I am committed to my higher self, to the guidance and understanding from my inner Source, from the knowing of my heart, not my head.” Jesus knew that to exalt the ego, to acknowledge and elevate the small self, was not the path to take. He made the one decision, the commitment to follow the higher path, regardless of how the ego insisted otherwise.
When we make this same commitment, we hear the voice of God from within, we feel the meaning and understand Isaiah 40:3-5: A voice of one calling: "In the desert prepare the way for the LORD ; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all humankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken."…directly to us.
We cannot resist our egos by ourselves. This god of Mammon and the lower realms of thinking demands to be served, and we are told we cannot serve two Masters: God and Mammon. Humbly we must continue to reassert the one decision to alone serve our God within.
When we get “into the flow” as some call it, because that is how they experience it, we express without struggle: freely, openly, unhampered by the ego and the message or task is completed and received warmly. It is God expressing through us that people experience, although it still looks like us and sounds like us, but the results are instantaneously felt at a deeper level.
That is accepting and expressing Divine Understanding. When thoughts come without effort and concepts are revealed without seeming former knowledge, we have entered the intuitive place that Einstein described, the place that Jesus refers to as the Kingdom of God – where all is love, peace, joy, wisdom, and understanding – where we allow God to express through us fully and with clarity. Sometimes we even amaze ourselves: Oscar Wild once said: I am so clever that sometimes I don’t understand a single word that I am saying.”
We develop Divine Understanding by asking for it and desiring it, focusing our attention upon it. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so he is.” It does not say “as someone thinks in their head,” but in their heart. People pretty much develop along the lines that they lovingly pursue. No one attains wisdom or understanding without asking for it and striving for it. Solomon asked for wisdom and understanding so he could be a better leader and help others, rather than asking for prosperity, a long life, and freedom from the tyranny of his enemies. Because he sought after understanding with a loving heart, he was given all the others as well.
We express Divine Understanding through compassion and love. With an open heart and mind, we lovingly take the time to consider another person’s position and what is happening in their life. As the Prayer of St. Francis states: we seek to understand rather than worrying about being understood. As a member of the human race, we commit to seeing our brothers and sisters in a positive light. As we embody this love-imbued understanding, we maintain compassion for all of humanity and life.
Prayer and meditation are avenues for asking our Source for Understanding and Wisdom. In our quiet times with God, we allow our minds and hearts to be receptive and responsive to God’s higher understanding. Time, exposure, and proximity. From our earnest desire for spiritual understanding, we open the channels for God’s revelations.
Daniel 10:12 - "Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.” Daniel released the fears and doubts of his small self, his ego mind, and opened himself to Source. This is what is meant by humbling ourselves: to let go of the small self and let God flow through us as our highest self.
Humbling ourselves also means that we will know what God wants us to understand. We will never know everything, but we will know everything we need to know. Ecclesiastes 11:5 tells us: “As you do not know the path of the wind, or how the body is formed in a mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the work of God, the Maker of all things.”
We may even enjoy many aspects of God’s gift of life without understanding it all. As Paul tells us in his letter to the Philippians: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
We may not know everything, we don’t have to, but if we ask we can know enough, because Jeremiah 33:3 teaches: Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know. That is such an appropriate Bible verse for today. We can do all the internet searches we want, but until we can take our knowledge and combine it with God’s Love, inspiration, and revelation, we will not understand how all this knowledge applies to our lives and others.
It is my prayer that we will ask for God’s Wisdom and Understanding, then open our receptive and responsive hearts to God’s whispers of Love. I pray that we will learn how to live lovingly, joyfully, and peacefully … and do it.