“Just because you are right, does not mean I am wrong. You just haven’t seen life from my side.” Anon. “Always go with your passions. Never ask yourself if it’s realistic or not.” Deepak Chopra. That’s just a tiny sample of the “wisdom” I found on my social media today.
Young people are exposed to so many bits of “wisdom” from so many people. Some of it sounds really great – until you think about what it actually means. Or your kids may have been told by peers or teachers that someone like Chopra is just amazing and they should do whatever he says. Worse yet, much of this “wisdom” is totally anonymous. Unless you know for sure, it could be a quote from the Bible or something the mass murderer in Cell Block C said. Yet often teens will soak it in and pass it on to their peers.
That’s why it’s so vitally important we teach young people how to filter wisdom before they accept it, and especially before they pass it on to others. A great way is to encourage them to ask themselves these important questions before they accept anything as wisdom.
- What does it really mean? Sometimes items are worded in such a slick way, they sound really wonderful. Or maybe they are paired with an awesome photo or work of art. Perhaps, it is worded in a way that was meant to cause an emotional reaction or touch a part of you that is broken or hurt. Maybe, it’s just really funny, because it sounds so realistic. All of those things only mean the person creating the meme or post has some great advertising skills. It doesn’t necessarily mean the statement is true or wise. Sometimes the entire thing when examined closely means virtually nothing – similar to the speeches of many politicians. Before accepting or rejecting these bits, teach your kids to restate it in their own words. If they can’t explain it, they can’t make a great decision about whether or not it is true. (This is also helpful, because they may be totally misunderstanding what the person is really saying.)
- Who said it? Anything from the Bible, gets an automatic acceptance as wisdom EXCEPT be aware that some people quote Job’s friends for example as wisdom, when in reality God later punished them for their foolish talk/advice. If the person is known for practicing another religion, no religion or an unknown religion, teach your kids to give it other tests before accepting it as wisdom. Some religions have taken things from the Bible and others sound like biblical statements, but are actually not saying the same thing. For example, many religions have what sounds like the Golden rule, but is actually advocating a negative of it. If the author claims to be Christian, it still must pass the other tests before being accepted as wisdom. Even some of the best ministers in the world will tell you they have made mistakes in what they have preached at times in the past.
- Does it contradict scripture? This one is tough, because it assumes your kids are reading and studying the Bible. The quotes at the beginning are great examples. The first one sounds all “judge not”, but is actually implying there are no absolute truths – a very unbiblical idea. The second is removing God from the equation. God can give you talents and passions to use to serve Him, but our “passions” can also be selfish and sinful. Encourage your kids to ask for help from a trusted Christian adult if they are confused. This is one of those times when Google can help or it can make your child even more confused.
- Is it true most or all of the time? Some wisdom has no godly or ungodly elements to it. Never wash red clothing in hot water for example. But suppose your child saw the opposite “wisdom” in some wonderful life hack? Teach your kids when something has potentially negative consequences if it is wrong (like faded clothing), ask older, more experienced people their thoughts on the subject. This one can be very tough for some young people. In their efforts for independence, it is easier to believe “everyone over thirty is an idiot”. It takes humility to go to a parent or grandparent aged adult and ask what they think on a subject. Teach your kids though, that learning from the mistakes of others is a lot easier (and in this case cheaper) than making them yourself.
Obviously, the gold standard for wisdom is always God. That’s why it is so extremely important you help your kids develop strong Bible reading and study habits. Being unfamiliar with what is in the Bible can make them susceptible to a lot of false wisdom – especially that packaged in Christian wrappings. So teach your kids these questions, but get them in their Bibles – it’s the best safety net they have available to them.