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Growing in Wisdom

Growing in Wisdom

Anyone who has teenagers, works with teenagers, who remembers being one, or has ever even met one… will know that from time to time they make unwise decisions. Unwise decision-making might even be seen as the defining characteristic of the whole adolescent period of life. It is for this reason that across the College, and particularly in the Secondary Years we are focusing on growing in wisdom this term.

Many people throughout the course of history have written about wisdom. Famously, Socrates said that in order to grow wise, one must “know thyself”, essentially arguing that we cannot understand the world until we understand ourselves. Solomon took a different perspective, stating that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. While many of us would take a clear position on which of these ancient and well-known statements is of greater veracity, I would suggest that both are true and both are important. All truth, after all, belongs to and derives from God.

When we speak with our teenage children about growing in wisdom, what do we actually mean? Fundamentally, we are asking them to grow in their capacity to themselves through God’s eyes. This is a prayer I have often uttered as I have met with irate and upset teenagers in the aftermath of examples of their unwise decision-making. Too often our teenagers see themselves through worldly eyes and suffer as a result. Too often our teenagers see only their own failures, their own imperfections, and their inability to reflect the unrealistic (and highly curated) façade that fills in our social media feeds. They fail to see themselves as God (and hopefully we as the caring adults in their lives) see them; as the beloved children of God. Too often I find myself having conversations with teenagers who at the most fundamental level see no value in themselves, and this leads to a range of aberrant behaviours that cause us all a great deal of distress.

Similarly, in order for teenagers to grow in wisdom we must help them to see the world through God’s eyes. Very often our teenagers see and understand the world around them on only the shallowest of levels. Just as 90% of an iceberg sits beneath the surface, however, in order for teenagers to understand the world around them they must learn to look more deeply and understand the complexity of the situations in which they find themselves. As parents and as teachers living with teenagers it can be our tendency to want to tell them how it is. As someone who has worked with teenagers for many years, however, I can assure you that this is rarely effective. Teenagers come equipped with a deep and abiding certainty that they know best, and that as adults we don’t understand anything. Instead of lecturing therefore, it is usually the case that we should ask questions. When we coach from the sidelines, we increase our ability to help our teenagers grow in wisdom.

Finally, as adults living with and caring for teenagers we need to remember that, like us, they remain human beings under construction and deserve all the patience we can muster as they grow in wisdom.

Owen Laffin
Head of Secondary Years

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