Searching for Wisdom in Seas of Trouble

Where are you getting your wisdom?

We live in an age of abundant information, but not-so-abundant truth. So it’s more important than ever to dip deep into the well of knowledge in ways that lead to real wisdom.

In Grow Like Jesus, I define wisdom as “knowledge and insight from God that benefits you and others and brings glory to God.” The Apostle James tells us where to find it: “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” (James 1:5)

Don’t stop there, however. James immediately adds a warning: “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:6)

So how do we sift through the waves and the winds of the modern tech-driven seas? When the world conspires to distort, distract, and deceive, here are some things I try to keep in mind that help me stay anchored to godly wisdom:

Expose yourself to different viewpoints.

The other day I watched a video of Mike Rowe (the Dirty Jobs guy) talking to businessman Charles Koch, and Koch offered this simple but difficult advice: “Listen, even to the other side.” He said he was quoting a philosophy that guided Holland to prosperity, but it’s also a take on the Latin phrase, audi alteram partem meaning “listen to the other side.”

This is increasingly rare in our world. It’s easier than ever to surround ourselves with people who look like us, think like us, and believe like us. So all we end up hearing is more of what we’ve always been thinking or saying.

If you agree with everything your friends say and everything you read on the Internet and everything you hear on television, then you need more friends and you need to read and listen to other sources. Don’t dump your old friends or old sources. Just invest in some new and different perspectives. You might learn something, and so might others.

Trust but verify (aka Google it).

This should go without saying, but, of course, it doesn’t, and that’s why I’m saying it: Just because we read it on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s true. When we read something or hear something that’s shaping our opinions, we no longer can take it at face value.

For instance, one of the news sources I’ve struggled with recently is Fast Company. I’ve long been a fan of this magazine for its cutting-edge take on business and leadership. In recent years, however, it’s become more and more politicized, agenda-driven, and untrustworthy.

There might come a time when I stop reading it, but I don’t want to throw out the baby with the bath water. Eight out of every 10 articles I read on Fast Company is pretty good, and the others have some good in them if I’m willing to sift a little to find it. On the other hand, I don’t trust it as much as I once did, because I know there’s a not-so-hidden motive behind every headline.

For instance, the American Institute for Architects (AIA) released a statement saying it would work with President-elect Donald Trump to “address the issues our country faces, particularly strengthening the nation’s aging infrastructure.” Sounds like a good idea. But it caused the architecture community to erupt in debate, according to a Fast Company story. The headline was: “Trump’s Election Fractures The Architecture Community.”

When I dug deeper, it was clear that some architects weren’t happy. But there was no indication that there was a consensus of dissent. No research had been done. All we know is that and one industry newspaper released a statement and that some people expressed their displeasure on social media (big news, there, right?). The more I checked the facts, the more I realized Fast Company was partially accurate.

Blogs, news outlets, Twitter feeds, Facebook posts … they all play loose with the facts. People paint with a broad brush that’s coated in the hues that color their agenda. Some lie. Others distort. A few just mess up because they aren’t careful enough. So consider the source, test their facts, do a little research and then see where that leaves you. The more you know, the more likely you are to get to the truth that you need to actually shape your way of thinking.

Use the right filters.

Who wants to drink dirty water? When you expose yourself to other viewpoints, however, you’ll no doubt get some junk along the way. Filter what you read and learn through other reliable sources, but also through godly friends, prayer, and, most of all, Biblical truth.

Return to James 1:5-6 often. Ask God for wisdom and believe.  Then trust God for the results; He always delivers.


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