An Encouraging Word – Knowledge vs. wisdom

Father J. Ronald Knott

Father J. Ronald Knott

Everything is lawful for me, but not everything is beneficial. I Corinthians 6:12

For me, The Dr. Phil Show can be disturbing, especially when he exposes some of the frightening trends among the young.

Recently, he did a show on vicious cyber bullying, featuring two young women who were mortal enemies and who were using the internet to blast each other with blatant lies, false accusations and graphic language for all to see.

They didn’t even have the sense to attempt anonymity.

He pointed out to them how behaviors such as theirs have led to lost careers, ruined reputations and horrific suicides, not to mention exposure to civil and criminal prosecution and other fall-outs for years to come.

Instant communications can have an almost perpetual life. Those implications are much more serious than the regrets of face and neck tattoos, stretched ear lobes or any other decisions made by people who are not used to thinking long-term.

Dr. Phil summed up his own program by telling his young guests, “The trouble with this generation is that you have the knowledge of how to use the internet, but lack the wisdom to go with it.”

That, in my estimation, nailed the problem.

In the right hands, the internet is one of the most helpful inventions of our time, but in the wrong hands it is the cause of unbelievable harm. Just think how much good it does to help people in the field of medicine, but look at how much evil it has perpetrated in the hands of the likes of ISIS in recruiting terrorists willing to cut heads off and burn people alive.

Just because people can learn how to use the internet, does not mean they have the wisdom to know how to use it well. Like freedom without responsibility, knowledge without wisdom can be very, very dangerous.

What is the difference between knowledge and wisdom, anyway? Knowledge is about facts and ideas that we have acquired through study, research, investigation, observation or experience. Wisdom is about the ability to apply those facts and ideas to the greater scheme of life. It is knowing why something is and what it means to your life.

Knowledge is knowing that a desert path is twelve miles long, wisdom is knowing how much water to pack for that hike; knowledge is knowing how to conceive a baby, wisdom is knowing how to be a good parent; knowledge is knowing how to construct a house, wisdom is how to turn a house into a home; knowledge is knowing how to plan a wedding, wisdom is knowing how to create a marriage; knowledge is knowing how to get through the seminary, wisdom is knowing how to “priest.”

Dr. Phil is onto something. Many of our societal troubles today probably come from the fact that we are very smart, but not always very wise. Knowledge is having clarity about the facts of life. Wisdom is having clarity about how to live well.

Father J. Ronald Knott

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