The Importance of Embodied Wisdom and Mentorship

Embodied wisdom (which is distinct from mere knowledge) is an invaluable resource for the flourishing of society.

However, various factors–including the erosion of extended family, mobility of labor and resources, and the atomization of communities–have contributed to a situation in which embodied wisdom is less accessible.

Therefore, we urge: 1) individuals to make sacrifices which would enable more embodied wisdom to be shared; and 2) communities to facilitate and encourage these types of sacrifices.


Thesis Background
The prevalence of our modern access to information has helped some to see the vivid distinction between knowledge and wisdom. It seems increasingly apparent that unfettered access to almost limitless information (i.e. the internet, libraries of print media, and/or the broadcast of visual media) will not stand as a viable substitute for regular in-person encounters with individuals who excel in sharing wisdom. Like myself, many people find it increasingly challenging to find not only wise but also available/accessible sources of mentoring. I was extremely blessed to have had two parents who have lead me and taught me throughout my life thus far. But as I've moved further from my childhood home, in the past several years, to pursue my career and independence for my wife and me, I've grown to miss the regular access to the embodied wisdom of my previous mentors. As with many things, [sadly] we often only realize the vital nature of these important relationships once they've been stripped away. Of course technology allows most of us to maintain a certain level of connection to these previous sources of embodied wisdom, but without a local wellspring some will feel stranded and frantic. One is hard-pressed to imagine a disembodied substitute for the personal, present, and precise wisdom of a relational local mentor. However, regardless of the apparent importance of this fundamental tenet of a healthy society, embodied wisdom seems to be a rather illusive commodity for many. Often, those who are qualified and comfortable with sharing their wisdom simply do not have the requisite time or availability to do so. Recently, I asked a leading member of my community whether he knew of any older gentlemen or couples who would be available to have dinner maybe once or twice a month - looking for men who might agree to fulfill a mentoring roll. Unfortunately his response was that while there are many who are qualified, few have made or will make the practice of mentoring a priority. Many have simply prioritized other aspects of their day-to-day lives. Some feel that one-on-one meetings, through which they might share their embodied wisdom, are simply not efficient enough to prioritize. I believe that some individuals are deterred from procuring individual dedicated mentees because of a desire to accrete broader influence. Whether these priorities are well-intentioned or not, I believe there needs to be a heavier priority placed upon the practice of sharing embodied wisdom within the setting of small groups or personal relationships. It is my hope that, in coming generations, men and women (as well as their communities) will facilitate and strive for social flourishing by adopting a more prioritized approach to passing the torches of their embodied wisdom.

4 comments

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  • Effective discipleship (mentoring) exists between two people (sometimes more) who have a passion for God. Embodied wisdom, it seems from reading your blog, is a term to describe those who have lived/experienced life well, qualifying themselves for speaking into others --- one-to-one or one-to-many. So, the question becomes "How can this 'embodied wisdom' best be passed along?" There is no one simple answer. Life is complex. Getting back to discipleship, how did Jesus disciple? Well, He discipled the 72, the 12, the 3, and even the 1. So, it would appear that discipling is somewhat different than imparting wisdom. There is an implicit intimacy in discipleship, whereas embodied wisdom makes no such requirement. This may not be where your argument lies, but I think it where the Christian community needs to invest. We can all agree, WE NEED EACH OTHER. And embodied wisdom is so needed in all manner of life. Returning to Jesus, it appears He made his greatest investments and had the greatest impact with the few, and the one. He is also the author of embodied wisdom. And what is amazing, is that He invites me into, and even DESIRES, relationship with me...and you...and you...and you. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. (Proverbs 9:10)
    • author
      I really appreciate your perspective. Thank you for pointing to the separation between discipleship and embodied wisdom. It has helped me to further understand the complexity of this thesis. I agree with your comment, except that I am hesitant to suggest that embodied wisdom belongs only, or even primarily, to those who "live/experience life well" - although it certainly belongs to them too. It seems to me that each and every person has the capacity for embodied wisdom - although it may often abound in those who we perceive to "live well", if we are discerning. For some, asking "how best?" might be similar to an evangelist's worry about whether he's said the right words. Surely, at the end of the day, the Spirit will be responsible for any meaningful change. In a similar vein to evangelism, I would merely suggest that we can and should work to facilitate/encourage the process of sharing embodied wisdom. Instead, I would ask, "How might we increase the number of opportunities, throughout our culture, for people to find themselves in a position to speak or be spoken to in meaningful ways?" Many need help and encouragement. For instance, I think sports are often an excellent avenue for developing a discipline of mentorship, but the inherent competition often fosters less desirable qualities as well, such as tribalism and rivalry.
  • This is fascinating- and very true I think! So often, if someone has wisdom in a particular area, we would encourage them to blog and market themselves to ensure their wisdom reaches the widest possible audience. However, if time is taken up touring and speaking, might they not be more effective in gradually training and mentoring a few individuals- which might have the greater long-term impact??
    • author
      Tanks for your comment!  My suspicion is that there may often be more social and economic reward for the individual with broad influence, rather than localized relationships.  We find ourselves in an age where "personal-branding" is not uncommon.  People know there's fame to be found - and money to be made - by selling themselves to a wide audience of followers.  Are there ways, just as well, that we can encourage people towards developing personal relationships within their local communities?  I'm almost sure that half of the problem is that people don't know how to find mentorship or menteeship.  There may be an opportunity for some in their career paths, or education, but we play many roles - most of us.  What help is there for those who wish to be a better parent, spouse, sibling, friend, or citizen?  Embodied wisdom ought to serve and speak to each of these areas of life, I think.