Real Wisdom, Socrates-style…

This has been a challenging week for me. Trying to deal with life and all that, understand where I am, where I am going, a lot of pondering, burning through all kinds of brain power… The result – I came to the big realization, that I am not omniscient. Not even close. In fact, I don’t even know everything about what I do know. This is a hard position for a Type-A achiever like me, however, it can be good… really. See, when you can really assimilate that line of thinking, it can be freeing.

This whole thing came to a head for me after visiting a friend in the hospital. He’s going through it, but is fighting the good fight. After spending time with him and his wife, both talking and praying with him, another friend, Dave, and I had the chance to talk about the whole experience. We’ve seen miracles happen before, but trying to 1) explain the mechanics behind them (you can’t) and 2) replicate them (again, you can’t) can really mess with your head.

Why can’t it just happen this time like it did last time? What is God’s plan in this?

This is when the bargaining comes in. God, if you do this, just think about how many people will believe in You. Just think about what his testimony would be… as if God needed puny old me to defend Him.

Does this mean I am an advocate of blind faith? No, not the way that people generally look at it. True faith is a response to something or someone. Where you may not understand the details, you do know that the thing or the person is reliable enough to warrant trusting in. Kind of like gravity… I can’t see it, or touch it, or really understand it at all, but I know that I am not jumping off of any high buildings with no parachute, cuz gravity says that I will go splat if I do. What do I know about gravity? Only that it works. And for me, that’s good enough. For now…

In the flurry of tweets that run across my smartphone, every once in a while one will catch my eye. The latest that has been sticking with me is this Socrates quote:

I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing

When I first saw it, I rejected it, cuz, well, I consider myself a pretty smart man. I’ve read, and studied, and know things. Plus, a lot of church teaching says that faith is “knowing that you know that you know”, so for me to know nothing would equate to a lack of faith. But in considering this, I think Socrates was really onto something. Proverbs 9:9 says “give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser. Teach a just man and he will increase in learning. When we think we know it all, there is nothing else to know, but a wise man (or woman) will realize that even with all that they know, they have only scratched the surface of what there is to know about anything. So truly wise people reject the notion that they are omniscient, that they have a corner on the market for knowledge, and take the path of being lifelong learners.

If Socrates wasn’t enough, my good friend J wrote an entire post about our interactions with people, and the totally freeing attitude we should have, admitting that we don’t know what they are going through. I have thought about the post, my reactions with people, and the all too easy tendency to create their reality for them. I had dinner with an old high school friend of mine tonight, and we not only reminisced about old times, but we got pretty deep about some very hard times in our lives – times when we really could have been there for each other, but something prevented us from reaching out. We each had this idea of each other that wasn’t really true (not a bad idea, but an idea nonetheless), and had we taken a wiser (as in, “I don’t know enough about him, but I am willing to learn”) approach, we would have found that what we thought or feared really had no merit.

I want to be wise. Socrates-style. I want to be ever learning, keeping my brain young and spongy. I want to be free enough to not create other’s reality for them, but to give them space to allow me into theirs, and them into mine. That is where the real magic happens… want proof? Read C. Fassett’s experience detailed in J’s post. I won’t give it away, but I’ll tell you, I was struck by the miracle that happened in that encounter.

Oh, and my friend in the hospital? Yes, miracles did happen. Not because we needed to prove God. Truthfully, I don’t know why they happened. I’m just glad they did. And for me, that’s good enough. For now…

To read more from C. Fassett, visit

and from J. Clement Wall, visit

7 Replies to “Real Wisdom, Socrates-style…”

  1. And honestly? I found Michael’s comment on j’s post to be the most true thing there is:

    “We can always choose to offer grace to a person, even if we can’t condone or praise their behavior.”

    If nothing else…God is Grace.

    1. if we can get to the point of realizing that grace is supposed to flow freely like that, how wonderful the world would be. How wonderful our lives would be.

  2. I think that being wise, Socrates-style, is the best way to go through life. There will never be even one thing, one subject, one question we know everything there is to know about.
    And that’s the best part of life.
    Because if there wasn’t anything new to learn, believe, question, think about, wish – I don’t even want to think about how sad that would make our lives.

Leave a Reply