Four Steps to Wisdom

The first step to wisdom is to get in touch with the negative feelings that you may not even be aware of. Gain an awareness of your negative feelings. Ask yourself if you are gloomy or moody. Do you feel self-hatred or guilt? Does life seem pointless or make no sense? How about looking at those hurt feelings! Get in touch with these very powerful and potentially destructive emotions. A whole lot of people are very depressed and lonely. It is only when making contact with joy that you may well understand just how depressed and lonely you are.

The second step is to understand that that feeling inside of you may not be reality. It is in you but it may not accurately reflect reality. Many people from all walks of life, even those one might consider very intelligent or very powerful, don’t understand this. As one man put it, “I got a pretty good education. It took me years to get over it.” Wisdom and spirituality go hand in hand and you may well have to “unlearn” a lot of what you have been taught especially by the secular society. We live in a society that is not spiritual, nor interested in what spirituality has to offer. This means you may have to stop trying to change other people including our spouses, your bosses, your friends, and even your enemies. You don’t have to change anything other than to recognize that negative feelings are in you. No person on earth has the power to make you unhappy. There is no event on earth that has the power to disturb or hurt you. We have been told the opposite so much that we create a lot of messes that are so difficult to clean up. Let us suppose you plan a picnic and a rain storm washes out the picnic. Who will feel negative? The rain, or you? What might be causing that negative feeling, the rain or your reaction? So step two says, the feeling is in the person, not in reality.

The third step is rather straitforward, never identify with that feeling. Do not define your essential self in terms of a feeling. If you want to say that depression or gloominess is there, that is fine but not, “I am depressed.” If depression or hurt feelings is there right now, let it be, leave it alone, and it will pass. Everything passes, everything. If you are a person who seeks kicks or thrills, then get ready for depression. Do you want your drug? Get ready for a hangover! If you try these first three steps many times (perhaps even thousands of times), you will get it. Many people have arrived at the conclusion that if they were just loved by somebody or belong to anybody or anything (such as a group) they will be completely fulfilled and happy. But the opposite is what is true, what you and all of us need to do is to love another. We are undeniably created in the Image of God and that means loving God and our neighbor first and foremost. Love, by its very nature, wants to give to another. Wanting to be desired, applauded by others, or attractive to others is a waste of time and energy. You can be blissfully happy without it. You do not have to do anything to acquire happiness. “God is not attained by a process of addition to anything in your soul, but by a process of subtraction.” If you want to be free, examine what needs to be dropped from your life.

The fourth step to wisdom is to understand that we always want someone else to change so that we will feel better or good. What does that do to you? Well what happens when someone close to you does change? What does that do to you? Well very little as you are still vulnerable to your feelings and whims. You are the one who needs to change, not your spouse or your boss or a friend. When we are hard at work on ourselves and our spiritual journey then we will barely notice what we think might be wrong with others or the world. “The world is right because I feel good.” Anthony De Mello