Gregory Jantz, Ph.D.
An excess, by its very nature, is generally an unwise thing. For us, excess means more than necessary. Excess is what gets us in trouble. A personal needs to work but shouldn’t become a workaholic. A personal needs clothing but shouldn’t become a shopaholic. A personal needs to eat but shouldn’t become a glutton. A simple wager has no harm unless you’re a pathological gambler.
Excessities blur the link between something that is fine and something that is over the line. When we’re caught in the spiral of an excessity, we can find it very difficult to judge where that link is and how and when to draw ourselves back from the edge. We need Wisdom 101.
I’ve never seen Wisdom 101 in any college course listing. While institutions of higher learning are the world’s answer to knowledge, there are fortunately other sources available for attaining wisdom. In Scripture, Wisdom 101 is called the book of Proverbs. It was written by King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived. Here is its course description:
“The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair” (Prov. 1:1–3). This book is an amazingly practical and sometimes amusing treatise on the benefits of wisdom and the pitfalls of foolishness. Verse after verse and example after example juxtapose the behavior and the consequences of the wise and the fool, the prudent and the simple.
A proverb is a fundamental truth — a short saying that describes the way things actually are. For this reason, proverbs are the perfect foil for excessities, which operate on deception rather than truth and distort the ways things actually are. As we’ve talked about before, the distortion and the deception of excessities are designed to keep you chained to them; proverbs, therefore, can assist in uncovering truth and dissipating the power of excessities.
There are a vast number of things we can learn from Proverbs, and a thorough, thoughtful reading of it is tremendously beneficial as a first step to attaining wisdom. There are thirty-one chapters — one for every day of any month. Here are just a few proverbs I pulled out from the “course.” These are merely provided to, hopefully, whet your appetite to investigate this Wisdom 101, the book of Proverbs, further:
The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it. (Prov. 27:12).
The last thing an excessity wants you to do is slow down, stop, think it over, and evaluate the evidence. Excessities urge you to just keep going, keep doing what you’re doing, regardless of the results and evidence to the contrary.
I, wisdom, dwell with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion. (Prov. 8:12)
In this verse, knowledge is seen as an addition to wisdom, not a substitute for it. Knowledge is a component of wisdom, but knowledge is not a guarantee of wisdom. Knowledge, without wisdom, is just a recitation of facts. Wisdom allows the knowledge to be placed into context and utilized to its fullest potential.
Lastly, wisdom is coupled with discretion. Discretion is the ability to accurately read the choices you are presented with an make the correct decision. Because of this, it’s no wonder discretion is a companion of wisdom! How in the world could you accomplish something as tricky as discretion without wisdom? Wisdom, then, is a conglomeration of several words and abilities, all pointing to a capability to understand the way things really are and act accordingly.
Fools are headstrong and do what they like; wise people take advice. (Prov. 12:15 MSG)
I used The Message translation here because I like its succinct wording. You could very easily take out the word fools and put in the word excessities. Excessities don’t want you to get advice. They just want you to keep doing what you’re doing. Wise people, however, develop a built-in wait-a-minutefeature that is able to step on the brakes and seek out the counsel of others, listening to something other than the urgency of the excessity. Wise people are also humble people who are able to recognize when they need outside help and actively seek out and accept that help.
He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; he who cherishes understanding prospers. (Prov. 19:8)
Wisdom is about feeding your inner part, your soul. Excessities are about satisfying the outer, surface parts. Wisdom is about making a choice to deny the outer in order to truly nourish the inner. When you are able to make this difficult choice and feed your soul instead of your excessity, you will prosper. This is a promise, a true promise — not the false, deceptive promises made by any one of your Gotta Have It! behaviors.
Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 35 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.