This past week I attended an AP English workshop, where we 12 teachers sat in a room for 8 hours a day for 4 days straight, discussing Hamlet’s soliloquies, interpreting literary criticisms, and practicing writing answers to the three essay questions students are given for this college entrance exam. Listening to the presenter describe the intricacies of Graphic Symbols and TP-CASTT was a daunting, mentally exhausting, yet highly eye-opening experience. Besides learning how I can better teach iambs to students (who doesn’t love iambic pentameter???), more importantly I was able to connect with other English teachers from around the state. We ranged in age from those fresh out of college to others who were creeping towards retirement, yet all were quite interesting to talk to. I had lunch most of the days with one such gal from the Big Island, as she participates in BJJ and actually knows of the teachers that instruct at my husband’s school. We chatted about the sport for a bit in between bites of our sandwiches, but most of our conversation revolved around her introductory year to AP and the fears she has about starting off the course unprepared.
I reassured her that everyone has fears, and no matter how adept one is at creating thematic units and grading papers, teaching truly is a “learn-as-you-go” type of position. A person can garner much knowledge from college courses, but wisdom about the profession only comes with time.
Knowledge versus wisdom. Wisdom versus knowledge.
The more we discussed these ideas, I was reminded about our church’s daily reading track, and how this plan had me contemplating and meditating on the book of Proverbs. During my quiet times, a few questions came to mind: What constitutes a person having knowledge? How does one go about gaining wisdom? Aren’t they both one in the same?
I know I used to use those words interchangeably. If a person is wise, doesn’t that mean she also has knowledge? However, I’m beginning to see that there may be a difference. In Proverbs 1, wisdom is personified as an actual woman, one who shouts out to the crowd to be on the look out for knowledge. Further on in Proverbs 4, sons are urged to listen to their fathers (because they are wise), and in doing so will reap knowledge. Interesting. From these sections (and many other chapters) of this Old Testament book, knowledge is being derived from the wise. To be wise means that wisdom is INSIDE a person. It is at his core. What springs forth from that individual is knowledge, and consequently, when one attains knowledge, he can then walk towards gaining wisdom.
This is no easy feat.
Take the profession of teaching. I garnered many lesson plan ideas from my colleagues this past week at the workshop (and all of these educators are quite wise, by the way), yet just because I have a digital document of their curriculum maps doesn’t make me any wiser. I have their knowledge on my flash drive, but until I plan my own lessons, teach it to the students, and see if my kids are able to attain the learning objectives placed before them, I will not truly be “wise”.
One’s past experiences also plays a huge role in differentiating between wisdom and knowledge. I have sat through many appointments with dietitians, nutritionists, psychologists, and psychiatrists, who have all attempted to help me be “recovered” from an eating disorder. Although they were able to create a meal plan that provided me with the appropriate amount of calories to eat, critiqued my food logs in order to help me gain weight, and offered up CBT terminology to talk down an anorexic thought, their knowledge about the illness was quite different than the wisdom someone who has gone through an eating disorder will have. It is that personal experience component that makes me turn to my husband or other females who have gone through the throes of anorexia and compulsive exercise when seeking help.
They get it.
They are knowledgeable about what it takes to get better.
They are wise to how the disorder can rear its’ ugly head at any minute.
But more importantly, there is connection and familiarity. When I confide in my husband how I pulled on a pair of shorts and “felt fat”, he immediately understood that that comment meant I was really feeling sad, disappointed, angry, or some other kind of emotion that ended up being projected as “feeling fat”. My wonderful mate never had anorexia, but he has seen me at my lowest when I my heart could have stopped beating at any minute. He has seen me hide running shoes in my car so that I could sneak them out for a run. He knows firsthand the devastating actions an eating disorder could (and would) propel me to do, and he can even repeat to me what ruminating thoughts a starved mind can have when thinking about food. As a former MMA fighter who had to cut weight for matches, he would describe how he would daydream about inhaling buckets ice cream and cookies because he had been living off of water, vegetables, and meat to shave off pounds. Those thoughts he had about Ben and Jerry’s and Chips Ahoy were the same type of crazy-starved-brain talk that ran through my mind when I was at an extremely low weight.
My husband is wise when it comes to eating disorders. In much the same way, there are many women I chat with that also have this same type of wisdom about weight and exercise. When I am faced with eating another scoop of peanut butter or handful of nuts because I am on a quest to pack pounds onto my small frame (more on that bit in my next post), but then feel that fear of losing what muscular definition I have (which is a crazy idea, I know), I turn to fellow powerlifting females (or other women that share the same love of weightlifting as me), and tell them what thoughts are going through my brain. And wonderfully, they get it. They understand that it takes hard training and hard eating to move more weight on the barbell. They understand that powerlifters need to have healthy and strong bodies in order to improve in the sport, even if that means shirts don’t fit over lat muscles and wearing jeans is ridiculous because they don’t go over round quads. Moreso, they are wise as to how our warped society deems we women who WANT bigger thighs and more mass as crazy and odd, and that this type of cultural compartmentalization can make the weight gain process that much harder.
Wisdom. Knowledge. Both are necessary in order to live a life of clarity, yet attaining wisdom means that one will have to take risks with the knowledge she has–this individual will have to be confident in the knowledge she has been gifted with and step forward into the unknown, ready to use said understanding to better herself.
This is no easy feat. Whether it be as a teacher, a patient in eating disorder recovery, or a parent, no one wants to feel inadequate or less than competent in any field. Thankfully it is by God’s grace we are able to take that first step into the unknown, hold up our shield of faith, and use the knowledge we have to find true wisdom.