Courage to Change: A Quint of Quotes

Fellow travelers,

Here is another “Quint of Quotes” from my collection, on the theme of personal responsibility and development.  Please don’t take the last one literally.

When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the LORD.” – Proverbs 19:3

“People could survive their natural trouble all right if it weren’t for the trouble they make for themselves.” – Ogden Nash

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.” – Common prayer adapted from Reinhold Niebuhr

“Millions of people die every year of something they could cure themselves: lack of wisdom and lack of ability to control their impulses.” -Irving Kahn, investor who died at 109 of natural causes in 2015

And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire.” – Matthew 18:8

Goodness By Design: A Quint of Quotes

Fellow travelers,

Here is another “Quint of Quotes” from my collection, on the theme of “Goodness By Design.”  I did not group these together by accident…

“The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes” – Sherlock Holmes, in Hound of the Baskervilles

“If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” – Carl Sagan

“Even if you’re an atheist, you face…the problem of good…if the world is a chance assembly of accidental phenomena, why is there so much that we want to praise and celebrate?” – NT Wright

“A moment after they have admitted that good and evil are illusions, you will find them exhorting us to work for posterity, to educate, revolutionize, liquidate, live and die for the good of the human race” – CS Lewis, in Miracles

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” – Philippians 4:8

Listening & Understanding: A Quint of Quotes

Fellow travelers,

Here is another “Quint of Quotes” from my collection.  I hope you find these five somewhat related sayings interesting and thought-provoking.

Photo by Paule Knete on Unsplash

“Very few people would listen if they didn’t know it was their turn next.” – Robert Conklin, Entrepreneur, Motivational Speaker (1921 – 1998)

“Checking the truth of something should come well before getting agitated about it” – Prof. John Staddon of Duke University

“He who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that” – John Stuart Mill (1806 – 1873)

“I have often repented of having spoken, but never of having kept silent.” – Saint Arsenius the Deacon (350 – 445 A.D.)

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,            but only in expressing his opinion.” – Proverbs 18:2

Popular Orthodoxy: A Quint of Quotes

Fellow travelers,

Here is another “Quint of Quotes” from my collection.  These five somewhat related sayings suggest the particular time and place we live in may not be very different from every other time and place.  I hope you find them interesting and thought-provoking.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.  He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?…the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.” – Genesis 3:1,4

“Every age has some ostentatious system to excuse the havoc it commits. Conquest, honour, chivalry, religion, balance of power, commerce, no matter what, mankind must bleed, and take a term for a reason” – Horace Walpole, British politician, in 1762

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” – Proverbs 14:12, 16:25

“At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas of which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is ‘not done’ to say it… Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the high-brow periodicals”. – George Orwell, in the 1945 introduction to ‘Animal Farm.’

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.  As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” – 2 Timothy 4:3-5

Wisdom, “in Quotes”

Corporate training booklets are great sources of interesting quotes.  I came upon this one from Greek philosopher Socrates (470 to 399 B.C.) in a training session on presentations: “The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.”  This makes a lot of intuitive sense because if people can’t agree on something as basic as definitions, it’s difficult to move forward.

However, I think there’s something even more fundamental – closer to the real beginning of wisdom -than the “definition of terms,” and that is: who gets to define the terms?  Doing that requires wisdom, so we can’t really be wise until we find someone worthy to define the terms.  Socrates probably considered himself a good candidate to provide it!  For most of us, in moments of honesty, we might admit that most of the time we are either trusting our own judgment, or maybe just improvising.

There’s another necessary factor.  If we find someone we can trust to define wisdom for us, but when it comes time to act we go against their advice, their definitions do us no good.  Therefore, we don’t begin to be wise without having the will to choose rightly.  Although we say we trust someone’s wisdom, by not acting on it we disrespect them, and perhaps Wisdom itself, by not following through.  We might have more knowledge, but not more wisdom.

So, I’ll suggest a better quote (there were no Bible verses in my training booklet).  In the Old Testament book of Proverbs, Solomon – another historical figure (like Socrates) famous for wisdom – wrote that:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
         and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” – Proverbs 9:10

Solomon neatly fills in what the earlier quote is missing, because:

  • There is a Holy One, whose very character of holiness is the definition of terms we need.  His decision making has no flaw and is trustworthy.
  • He is the LORD, who has authority, and uses it to lovingly advise His people on how to live wisely.
  • Fear of the LORD means that respect for Him is required for us to not just go off on our own, but to follow His perfect advice.  This fear turns the abstract knowledge into useful wisdom.

Wisdom ignored isn’t wisdom.  As I’ve written earlier, “Wisdom is about taking the right action, not about accumulating facts.”  The verses leading up to Solomon’s above saying are Proverbs 9:7-9, which say:

Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse,
         and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury.
Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you;
         reprove a wise man, and he will love you.
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
         teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.”

We cultivate wisdom by considering God’s works and His will for our lives (through the law and the Holy Spirit).  We cultivate wisdom by allowing Him to define our terms as only He can.  It is the presence of the fear of God – respect for His wisdom – that determines whether we scoff at correction (verses 7-8 above) or increase in learning (last verse).

Tomorrow I will re-post an old article on the definition of love, but today close with an echo of today’s idea from the Psalms:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
         all those who practice it have a good understanding.
         His praise endures forever!” – Psalm 111:10