This article was developed via a partnership with BetterHelp.
A debate has long raged about whether it is more valuable to seek after intelligence or wisdom. Many authority figures rave about the importance of wisdom, while parents and educators may focus more on education and, subsequently, intelligence. Determining which “superpower” is better requires a thorough understanding of what both entail, both in terms of how they are developed and how they impact the lives of individuals and those closest to them.
The Basics of Wisdom
The term “wisdom” is frequently used in philosophical and religious texts, but it can be found in other areas as well. In all areas, no matter how disparate their beliefs, wisdom is usually highly regarded, and has been described as the source of good advice and peace. Wisdom does involve knowledge, but is seen as more of the application of the knowledge and the discernment necessary to determine which aspects of knowledge are best applied and utilized. Wisdom is usually associated with people who have spent years working to develop their wisdom through reading, working for others, and cultivating discernment. The most popular figures associated with wisdom include common religious figures, such as the Buddha, Jesus, or the prophets associated with various religious histories. Other popular figures include Gandhi and Winston Churchill. These figures are all associated with wisdom not only due to a wealth of knowledge, but also due to a deeply ingrained desire to help others.
The Basics of Intelligence
Intelligence is arguably the more readily identifiable of the two, because most people are well acquainted with the idea of intelligence, and it is not considered a controversial or difficult identifier to understand. Intelligence is usually measured in terms of general knowledge. Someone who is intelligent is typically seen as someone who has a large amount of knowledge across many different categories or is capable of completing difficult tasks that require a specialized skill set or type of know-how. Common intelligent individuals include Bill Gates, Elon Musk, and Steve Jobs, and other businessmen who have conquered certain aspects of business. These men are typically considered intelligent because they are cunning and resourceful and know how to accomplish intelligence-oriented tasks, such as the development of new technology.
Honing intelligence is often a fairly simple matter of learning more. Whether through formal education efforts, such as an advanced degree, or through self-education efforts, such as reading prolifically, taking online courses, or seeking out a mentor, education is the most effective route to develop your intelligence. Intelligence has different avenues to pursue. For some, intelligence means overcoming inherent barriers to learning. For others, intelligence means simply chasing every new area of interest to develop a wieldy degree of knowledge. Intelligence is typically limited only by resources and will, and can come to virtually anyone who seeks after it.
Wisdom is associated far less with intelligence and far more with experience. Although advanced age is not necessary to develop wisdom, age and experience are the two factors that are most commonly associated wit the development and even the utilization of wisdom. Wisdom often involves intelligence, but an advanced level of intelligence is not usually viewed as a prerequisite to wisdom. Instead, compassion and care are typically the two traits associated with the development of wisdom. Wise people are those who try to make the world a better place, or those who devote their lives to pursuing the answers to how to live a life well-lived, or how to leave the world a better place than it was when you found it. Developing wisdom often involves studying the wisdom of others who have come before, working in service to others, and staying apprised of the most pressing social needs and concerns of the day.
Is Wisdom or Intelligence Better?
Although there are proponents on each side of the debate, and plenty will argue that one has its merits over the other, the truth is far more nuanced. Intelligence without wisdom may be poorly spent or utilized, and wisdom without intelligence might have too narrow a scope and limited application. Developing intelligence through constant learning and increasing wisdom by engaging new experiences and continuing to expand your horizons are both immensely valuable and can greatly improve not only the quality of your life, but also the quality of life of those closest to you, as most articles on the subject will attest. Intelligence without wisdom can swing too far in the direction of self-focus, while wisdom without intelligence can fall on deaf ears. Prioritizing both can make the most of having either.