A few weeks ago, I heard a speech about the difference between knowledge and wisdom – something I’ve never thought about before.
That speech, in conjunction with a forest analogy my wife heard on YouTube by Eckhart Tolle, made me think about a trip I took to the Redwoods in Northern California a few months earlier.
Prior to going to this world famous place, I could have done a lot of research, learned about the trees, why they are so big and what makes them not blow over.
I could have learned that their rooting system is what holds them up – they basically work together to support one another.
I could have learned about the habitat, the surrounding area, the age of the trees, how many miles they expand along the west coast; I could have even mapped out where we were going to go (which my wife did – sort of).
All of this research and study would have given me quite a bit of knowledge about the Redwoods. With this knowledge, I would be able to “talk the talk,” tell people all about them, and profess to know the in’s and out’s.
However, what good does that really do me?
Until I was actually there, in the Redwoods, I had no experience, no wisdom.
Without being there, I couldn’t feel the humidity.
Without being there, I couldn’t smell the forest air.
Without being there, I wouldn’t have been able to hear the branches cracking as we walked along the shaded trails.
Without being there, I couldn’t stand next to the enormous “Big Tree” to capture how gigantic it really is.
All my study and learning about the Redwoods would do me little good until I got there and was among the trees – until I experienced the Redwoods for myself.
What does this have to do with sexual addiction and recovery?
In the Serenity Prayer it says:
“God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.” (italics added)
What does that really mean?
What is wisdom and why is it important?
Isn’t knowing about recovery sufficient?
Philoscifi.com explains the difference:
“Many people mistake knowledge for wisdom because they are intimately related, and this is unfortunate because they are quite different in an important way. Knowledge is the accumulation of facts and information. Wisdom is the synthesis of knowledge and experiences into insights that deepen one’s understanding of relationships and the meaning of life. In other words, knowledge is a tool, and wisdom is the craft in which the tool is used.”
So knowledge is the accumulation of facts and information.
“With the Internet, it is now relatively easy for a reasonably diligent person to quickly become knowledgeable in virtually any field of his or her choosing. We are literally awash in a sea of information! But having a hammer and knowing how to use it are two entirely different propositions.”
Thanks to the Internet, I can get knowledge about anything in a quick amount of time.
I can get knowledge about addiction recovery in a variety of ways too:
- going to meetings.
- reading from time to time in the recovery literature.
- going to an addiction recovery conference occasionally.
- talking to others about addiction and recovery.
I can even get knowledge about recovery by getting a sponsor who I call from time to time just to vent my frustrations or talk about triggers.
But do these activities give me “experience to deepen my understanding of relationships and the meaning of life?” Do they give me wisdom that will help me heal?
Not really – not for me.
As I’ve thought about knowledge and wisdom in relation to working the Steps of recovery, this came to mind:
“It works when I work it, so work it your worth it!”
Working the Steps, to me, is reading about recovery, taking it all in, thinking about what I’ve read, and then writing about how the content I’m reading applies to me right now, in this moment.
For me, writing is where the wisdom comes.
Writing begins to open the doors of my closed-off mind and help me dig up the core areas of my addictive mind – the addictive behaviors and addictive actions.
Writing helps me see things in black and white that I may have chosen to look away from or stuff in the past.
And for me, writing leads right into PRACTICING the Steps.
Practicing what I’m reading and writing is where the wisdom manifests itself.
Practice leads to progress.
Therefore, working the Steps, for me looks like this:
I pray to seek God’s will for me >
I read to gain knowledge and understanding from those who have trailed this path before me >
I meditate and write out my thoughts in an effort to apply what I’m learning >
I practice and reflect on what I’ve written throughout the day and share my experience with my sponsor and others one moment at a time.
I wish I was perfect at this.
I wish I could say that I’ve “arrived” and have it all figured out.
I wish my knowledge about these concepts was all I really needed.
But I’m learning that true wisdom comes with practice, patience, perseverance, and repetition – one day at a time.
As it says in the White Book:
“Healing in the family begins by staying sober, going to meetings, and working the Steps. It continues by staying sober, going to meetings, and working the Steps. It can end by not staying sober, not going to meetings, and not working the Steps.” (p. 154)
What are your thoughts on knowledge versus wisdom in recovery from addiction?