we, the unwise
Confide in me about anything and I will probably give you a well thought out, structured advice – complete with reasoning and even different alternatives. Yes, that’s me.
Step a bit closer to take a little peek at my life, and you’ll find me in desperate need of acting on my own advices in personal affairs first. Yes, that too, is me.
Weird dichotomy, right? Being a sage in affairs of others and failing to rev up the same wisdom when it comes to matter of own.
Doesn’t surprise me a bit. Knew all along about your insanity!
Wait a minute now. Are you sure that you are free of similar contrast? I really don’t think so.
We all tend to respond differently (read less wisely) to situations when they involve personal attachments. In the affairs of others, however, we display great intellectual abilities. This is hard to believe but, somehow, it makes sense when you look carefully.
Being less wise in your own affairs makes sense to you? Seriously?
Yes, it really does. And the credit goes to our sweet little egos!
Now the problem is that when an issue springs up in our own lives we unconditionally consider ourselves to be best equipped to resolve it. Why? Because it’s our life and our problem, so who can understand it better than us. The fact that we may have limited knowledge on the matter becomes simply unacceptable to us, our ego hurts on the idea that we should consult others who might have some useful (probably better) insight. We just draw all our cognition on the problem area while ignoring the greater scheme of events tied to it, all the while wrongly assuming that we are being more focused.
As a result, we cloud our reasoning and end up making biased, emotionally driven, and, of course, unwise decisions!
And how is It different when we help other in their problems? Do we just transform into some wise old alchemist in that case?
Alchemist or not, our reasoning abilities do transform for good when we separate ourselves from the process. It becomes a more pragmatic exercise with no emotional strings attached, no hungry ego to be fed.
We approach the issue at hand more objectively, analyze the entire situation as a whole, and draw conclusions based on facts – hence finally emerging with an intelligent resolution.
Heard about King Solomon? Well, he was a Jewish king and a very revered one at that. His acclaim derived from his unparalleled wisdom. Seeking his counsel, people used to pour in from far off lands. Such was his renown. People confided in him and he presented them with well thought out, structured advice.
The very same Solomon’s personal story, however, was an account of great disappointment. Maimed with wrong decisions, his life was laden with untamed exuberance – filled with self-praise, show off of riches, and women of pleasure. In desperate need of acting on his own pieces of advice he was.
Ultimately, his long rule met a sad demise.
Sounds quite relevant to what we were talking about, right? Right. This whole scenario where we are intelligent in other’s affairs but end up with unwise versions of ourselves in our own personal affairs is known as Solomon’s Paradox – a term coined by psychological scientist Igor Grossmann, owing to King Solomon’s contrasting wisdom in public and personal affairs.
Great story but how do we rid ourselves of this irony?
Well, to be honest, we cannot entirely get rid of this paradox, as suggested by Grossman in his academic works on the nature of human wisdom. But yes, what we can definitely do is:
- Redefine the problem in our mind as if it was being faced by one of our friends and not us,
- Evaluate the situation in third person while considering the entire bigger picture and just the problem itself, and
- Come up with solutions while keeping ourselves at a distance and emotionally detached.
In short, the next time you find yourself in a fix, remember that removing yourself from the equation is the foremost step towards a wise solution.