Sunday, July 29, 2012

Impressive, No?

Being smart is impressive. Rattling off math facts at lightening speed, reciting scriptures by the hundreds, high IQ/standardized/placement test scores, you know all the stuff that screams, "Look at me! I am smart and I can show you!"

I know fact spouters, scripture reciters, and high scorers, that are extremely impressive. They all have an intense drive for attention. This drive leads to a constant seeking of approval from others, and it grows to insatiable proportions as it takes on an addictive nature. As time goes on, this perceived need drives wedges between husbands, wives, children, and families. It leads to harmful practices and dysfunctional relationships as "anything to fill the void" becomes the driving force in the persons life. Sometimes it takes years, even decades, for the "fall out" to arrive. Sometimes it is very quick. No matter the time frame, there are always innocent people caught in the fray. The battle between ego and spirit is fierce. Although it seems a singular struggle, the effects are far reaching.

There seems to be something that drives this need to be impressive and in the spotlight. In my experience, admittedly limited but convincing none the less, the relation to ego seems apparent in each case. The ego is a curious thing and needs constant stroking and assurance. Such time and effort wasted in encouraging this base element of our psyche, could be better spent.

Conversely, I have seen people that are capable of being fact spouters and reciters, but they choose to live quiet lives. They use their knowledge quite effectively, in ways that do not scream for attention. They seek conversation, communication, and understanding, rather than attention and supremacy by declaration in impressive acts.

Impressive only lasts so long, and is only valid as long as someone else is willing to acknowledge and stroke the ego. Students seek learning for smarts, and can be very impressive. To be wise is power. Not power over another, but power to be our own true selves. Scholars seek the wisdom within their learning. 

Think of all the truly great leaders of our time. From George Washington to Gandhi, great leaders have the power to be themselves, all of the time. Without superiority or haughty attitude, they are true to themselves, always. Why are we drawn to them? Why do we seek their wisdom? Great leaders are never trying to impress anyone. They may be "impressive", as a result of choosing to be scholars in the truest sense of the word, but their very nature does not allow them to seek "impressive" as a goal. The drive is knowledge and understanding for a greater purpose than stroking ones ego. They are creating their own path. 

Truly great leaders do not seek the spotlight, they are generally found and sought out. At least they don't seek the spotlight for the spotlight. They may seek positions which are in, or surrounded by, the spotlight, due to interest. But they themselves are more comfortable studying, learning, creating, and leading, in quiet and purposeful ways. They seek to be scholars. To solve problems. To create better than what was there before. 

We are entrepreneurs of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Wisdom is gained upon reading, listening, thinking, pondering, formulating, and eventually, creating original findings and meanings within what we have sought. Wisdom lasts forever. Smarts are gone as soon as no one is looking.

In our family we have a saying, "Smart people talk. Wise people listen." I am grateful for the reminder that saying has become, as I really enjoy talking. I find myself better served, nearly every single time, through listening. 

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