By Libertas Omnium

Lately, I’ve been reflecting about the difference between knowledge and wisdom. What is knowledge? What is wisdom? How do they differ, is one better than the other, and how are they obtained? Or are they just different words we use to describe the same thing? 

I have come to the conclusion that knowledge and wisdom are different. Knowledge is a step on the path to wisdom. Knowledge is gained by reading, writing, speaking, and thinking. Wisdom is obtained by living and doing. Knowledge is information that has been digested thoroughly. It’s knowing that 2 – 4 = -2 without having to use a calculator. Wisdom is the practical application of knowledge. It’s realizing that if you have 2 cookies, you can’t take away 4. As Miles Kington said, “Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing not to put it in the fruit salad.” 

Albert Einstein famously said, “Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” In other words, wisdom isn’t something that can be obtained quickly or easily. The only way to gain wisdom is experience over time, whether it be hours, months, years, or decades. There’s a story about a boy who asks his grandfather, “How are you so wise?” The grandfather says, “Because I have good judgment.” The boy then asks, “How did you get good judgment?” The grandpa replies, “From having bad judgment.” What’s funny (not really) is that the only way people learn anything is by having bad judgment. By making mistakes. By blowing things up (there is another way, but I’ll talk about that later).

Stephen Hawking said, “The greatest enemy of wisdom is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge.” When you know something, but it turns out that thing is false, you have to unlearn what you “know” before you can learn the truth. Knowledge is a powerful thing. Once you know something, you can’t unknow it. Once you believe a lie, it is very hard to unbelieve it. Here’s where we come to a paradox. Wisdom is having knowledge and applying it in the real world. It’s having a toolbox full of tools, and having the skills to use those tools. At the same time, however, wisdom is knowing that you will never know everything, and that many of the things you “know” could in fact be false. Wisdom is having knowledge and knowing how to use it, but at the same time realizing how much you don’t know. 

I think we all need to realize two things: First, knowledge isn’t wisdom. Just because we have one doesn’t mean we have the other. Second, we need to realize that just because we think we know something doesn’t mean we know everything about it, and even though we might know a lot, and even have a little wisdom, our wisdom is nothing compared to God’s wisdom and understanding. 

In chapter 28 of the book of Job in the Bible, we read the following verses:

“But where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding? Man knoweth not the price thereof, neither is it found in the land of the living. The depth saith, It is not in me: and the sea saith, It is not with me. It cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof… Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding? Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air… God understandeth the way thereof, and he knoweth the place thereof… and unto man he said, “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.”

By staying close to God, we can be inspired in our minds and discover truths we never would have dreamed of before. This is the other way we learn things, through God speaking to us. God knows everything and he is the ultimate source of knowledge. Let’s not forget him in our search for wisdom and understanding.