Monday Musing: What is Wisdom?

The second Guide Law is:

A Guide is helpful and uses her time and abilities wisely.

At first this sounds simple; but what is wisdom?  How can we expect ten-year-olds to know what “wise use of time” actually is?

You might say, well, a child should do all of her homework, study hard, and do her best to pass her exams so she can have a good future.

And you would be right.  However, would spending all of her time studying be wise?  I am pretty certain that most people, if they spent the entirety of their waking day studying, would go insane.

I know I would.

In any case, a person who spends all of their time at a desk won’t get any exercise, and we know that exercise is important.  Surely doing some exercise would be wise.

Social skills are also important, so the wise child (and adult) should spend time on those – perhaps learning, but more importantly practicing, by spending time with other people.  So spending time with your friends is also wise.

In order to have something in common with your friends, it’s important to have some of the same experiences as them, so clearly watching TV is wise use of time.

And studies have shown that doing things purely for fun is good for you.  So clearly a wise time-management strategy would include some pure fun.

And obviously, we are supposed to be helpful.  So if someone needs help with something (studying for a test, tidying the room, preparing Christmas dinner for the family), we would need to be there for them.  Is it wise to be helpful?

Is it wise to be helpful all of the time?

We should practice the art of saying “no” occasionally, because helping that person may not be the wisest use of our time.

What about wise use of abilities?

Imagine, if you will, a group of Brownies on a walk.  They’ve got lost a few times, because the leader is letting them navigate (girl led guiding!), so they’re running a little late.

One of the girls’ shoelaces comes undone.  She’s only just joined the unit, and doesn’t know how to tie her shoes yet.

A surprisingly interesting moral dilemma.
A surprisingly interesting moral dilemma.

As leader do you:

a) Tie her shoelaces for her – it’ll be quick, and you need to get going.

b) Spend five minutes coaching her through how to tie them herself – she needs to learn, and simply tying them for her won’t help her in the long run.

c) Pretend you haven’t noticed.

I hope we can all agree that option c is not sensible.  But the other two – which is the “wisest” use of your abilities?

If you have the ability to play an instrument really well, what is a wise use of that ability?  Should you join an orchestra and make a career of music?  Should you lend your talents to the local drama and music group while pursuing a different career?  Should you teach others?

You might say (and in my opinion you would be right) that one of our jobs as Leaders in Guiding is to help young girls to make these sorts of decisions – and to help them to develop the skills to be able to make these decisions on their own.

But it’s hard to have the conversation with your girls if you haven’t thought it through yourself.  I invite you to spend ten minutes right now thinking about how you define “wise use of time and abilities”.

What situations have you found yourself in where it wasn’t obvious what the wisest use of your time was?  How did you make the decision?

Leave your stories in the comments below.

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