Is Wisdom a Result of Nature or Nurture?

I have always wanted people to think I’m wise. When I was younger I believe I might have entertained the notion that I was! Embarrassing! But I reckon as each of us gets older we realise how unwise we can really be. That has been my experience; I’m hoping I am not alone!

Having said that, though, certain characters do seem to be wiser than others. When I think of the word ‘wise’, I always imagine a patient, quick-to-listen and temperate person who can handle stress and difficulty as if they were in a boat above the water, rather than drowning in the waves. They do not breakdown, they are considerate of others, and have well considered judgments and opinions on current issues. Have I just described some sort of superman!???


But even if the list above is a bit too much, I have found that certain characters tend to seem wiser than others. From my perspective, it tends to be those that are able to control their emotions, quick to listen rather then quick to speak, content with their position in life and, for me, someone who follows Jesus. Having said that though, I believe there are many wise non-Christians, so even though I do feel that it is ultimately wise to follow Christ, I want this discussion to be slightly more general. Therefore I will not primarily be discussing that aspect of wisdom in this article.

I work for a finance company in their customer services (CS) department. There are about 200 employees in my department and about 60 in my section. I really enjoy it, and believe in it’s ethical code of practice. But, a few weeks ago I had a bad week, and I will explain why. If any of you work in an office, you will know that there are many different types of people who react, work and think differently all working in the one environment. Each manger has to become accustomed to how the members of their team works, and a good manger will work according to individuals’ preference where they can.

I have always been quite ambitious and very driven in my work. As a result, I am constantly asking questions: asking if I can go on training, if I can start something new . . . ect. When I worked in another sector of the CS this was encouraged, and I was praised for doing it. However, when I moved to a new sector of CS I did not consider the possibility that the dynamic was different. As such, I continued to be innovative and demanding. I started to get some negative feedback from individuals in my sector, and I didn’t know why. I believed that I was trying my best to be an asset, but was met with resistance. I also found that some normal practices from my previous sector were not appropriate for the new sector, and my manger kindly pointed this out when I asked in private.

But I carried on innovating, and trying to implement change, not just because I thought it would benefit the company, but because I enjoyed it. Unfortunately, some of my ideas were put forward because of my own enjoyment in the process, rather than well thought out ideas with good reason why they would progress our sector. This was picked up by one of my mangers, who helped me see how it could come across to the rest of the team.

I asked for lots of changes to be made, and I thought I was following the advice of the department. But when I presented my ideas, I was told that I hadn’t listened to the instructions, and could I go away and do it again. This got me so upset that I started crying (in private, I hasten to add). Unfortunately, this is one of the main areas in which I fall down from my list of wise attributes: controlling one’s emotions. Anyway, I was able to talk it out, and was told that I had not listened to instructions. I said that I thought I had, and I was sorry if I missed something. I was also told that there was a general feeling of frustration with my requests, because I had asked for the same things over and over again in different ways, even though I had been told ‘no’. I was totally unaware that I had done this because of the amount of request I had made. But once it was pointed out I could see that I had! I again apologised. Afterward, I was very pleased to have had that conversation because I realised that I had a lot to learn about wisdom.


I would say that it is part of my character to be impulsive and outspoken. It is also part of my character to be extrovertly sensitive. It seems to me that someone who is introverted emotionally will seem a lot wiser than someone like me. It also seems that intelligent, confident, but not-so-outspoken people will seem wiser that I. But does that mean that they are naturally wiser? Or does it mean that they have refined there character though choice and experience to become wiser? Are some people born with characters which seem wiser then others? Or can all characters be refined to maturity?

Perhaps my title question is a false dichotomy? Perhaps it cannot be either nature or nurture that result in wisdom, but a mixture of both? Perhaps if we do not think of wisdom as a particular characteristic, which we so often do, but rather think of it as the maturing of character. Therefore, all types of people are able to develop different-looking Wisdom, much like there are many types of beauty, perhaps there are many ways that wisdom can present itself. In fact, that is quite a lovely image. And it motivates me to develop myself, not primarily in material success, but in the development of my character.

Of course all wisdom comes from God, whether you believe in him or not. My best bet for refining my character will be to follow him will all my energy. Here is a beautiful passage from the Bible on Wisdom:

“I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence;
I possess knowledge and discretion.
To fear the LORD is to hate evil;
I hate pride and arrogance,
evil behavior and perverse speech.
Counsel and sound judgment are mine;
I have insight, I have power.
By me kings reign
and rulers issue decrees that are just;
by me princes govern,
and nobles—all who rule on earth.[a]
I love those who love me,
and those who seek me find me.
With me are riches and honor,
enduring wealth and prosperity.
My fruit is better than fine gold;
what I yield surpasses choice silver.
I walk in the way of righteousness,
along the paths of justice,
bestowing a rich inheritance on those who love me
and making their treasuries full.”

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