Wise: Having the power of discerning and judging properly as to what is true or right; possessing discernment, judgment, or discretion.
Wisdom: the quality or state of being wise; knowledge of what is true or right coupled with just judgment as to action; sagacity, discernment, or insight.
The virtue of wisdom is one I hold dear. I try to improve my ability to discern the difference between the truth of matter and complicating factors, such as ego, in a situation, even when it concerns my own “stuff”. I find that well placed wisdom gained from experience can not only help avoid negative situations in the future, it can help bring peace in the present. When I feel I am operating from a place of my greatest wisdom, I can be comfortable in the fact that I did the best I knew how to do in any given situation.
A good example of wisdom, or becoming wise, would be the discourse between Krishna and Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita. Arjuna starts off almost childlike; inquisitive, but obviously ignorant as to the truth of the way things really work. He is entrenched in the “maya”, or the mistaken belief that there exists a dichotomy between the self and Higher Consciousness. As the story progresses, he comes to learn that there is no separation between himself and the truth, and approaches Moksha (enlightenment). Moksha, to me, means ultimate wisdom: it means having no separation between one’s self and the truth, and being in tune with the vibrations of nature.
Confucius says, “By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” Unfortunately, I usually gain wisdom by the last method.
My greatest moment of wisdom came when I quit my job. I had a great government job that was high paying, and was at the top of my field. It took much reflection and wisdom to realize that, although such a position was definitely feeding my ego and my natural predilection towards being a high achiever, it was not feeding my soul. It was an extremely difficult decision to make, because I had spent my entire professional life working towards this job. I had to make the decision between material wealth, and spiritual wealth, and literally, in the words of Denis Waitley, “Chase [my] passion, not [my] pension!” I’m not sure exactly what I would like to do professionally yet, but I know it is going to be some sort of “helping”. I’ve come to the realization that for me, real payment would come in the form of assisting others through their difficult moments. If my experience and gained wisdom could be of help, so much the better.