My children wanted haircuts over the weekend, so being the mom I am, I took them to the salon that had just mailed out coupons. I brought nothing with me – no books, no half-fleshed writing, no unopened mail – so I could enjoy a little one-on-one time with each child while the other one was being shorn, and wouldn’t you know, they both got seated in a styling chair at the same time. So I glanced through the fall trends of a magazine instead. A few paragraphs into the cover article, and I was immediately reminded why I let my past subscriptions lapse: I’m embarrassed by my own gender.
Of course a magazine isn’t to blame for the embarrassment – it only reflects the times. And oh, these times. So many women celebrating the discovery that they have a voice, but they haven’t figured out what they’re trying to say. Millennials acknowledging that yes, they have a body, and they’re proud of it, and – oh, look! – they’re posting pictures because it’s empowering, but empowering them to do what? Wear a bikini? Cool. Anything useful, though? Do they have the power to end toxic behaviors or break disordered habits? Moms my age deadlifting like a boss, celebrating muscle because it shows their strength, but they’re not strong enough to show up in the gym or anywhere else without false eyelashes, full makeup, and cosmetic surgery. Middle-aged women are pleased with expressing themselves as a contribution to society, but their contribution rarely has much benefit other than garnering applause, and I wonder, if they received no attention for their contribution, how quickly would they express their displeasure?
There are many conversations being had, with people ‘joining the conversation’ and whatever, and everyone seems to have a strong opinion with dislikes that trigger them and likes that suit them, and these preferences seem to make saying the same 8 buzzwords about the same 3 topics very exciting, but no matter the word choice, the message is clearly, “Me. More.” The communicators are attractive and privileged, revered as authorities on authenticity (behind the guise of contouring and spanx, or manscaped beards and expensive suits) and they speak of ideals without understanding the ideas behind them, without any clue which weak ideals we’d need to strengthen right now in order to build a perfectly impartial world. Everyone’s talking, but nothing being said has any utility. It’s a just tangle of prophets with unprofitable declarations, valued quotes without value, and many (so many) words without wisdom.
But no need to despair. Wisdom is still alive and well, because here’s the truth about wisdom: it has a subtlety to it. It clearly communicates without speaking a word. Wisdom understands that being fair, staying disciplined, and doing what’s right is more useful than talking about it.
When the wisest man in the world wrote Proverbs, it wasn’t to highlight his opinions or exercise his privilege. He shared his wealth of wisdom so that anyone could enjoy dignity and honor, and he did it radically…by personifying wisdom as a woman. It seems equity is alive and well, too.
And I can’t help but smile because I’ve known and I know women who personify wisdom. They are single moms proudly putting food on the table, regardless the size of their paycheck. They’re former victims who’ve learned to cope, heal, and grow, and they’re ending the cycle of abuse by looking out for vulnerable girls in their neighborhoods. They’re women whose bodies have been weakened by cancer or disability and they aren’t strong enough to lift their own legs most days, but they’ve lifted their chins with resolve and they are leading and loving with tenacity. They are grandmas raising grandkids and hardworking women who are respected because they deserve it, not because they demand it. They are women encouraging their friends, wives supporting husbands who want to go back to school, and marathon runners who don’t run from difficult discussions with their children. These women are comfortable in their own skin, comfortable with making tough choices, and comfortable with being sincere. They understand that patience builds peace, self-respect nurtures love, and outrage is most often a mask for unchecked self-centeredness. They’re not grabbing for privilege, they’re gripping dignity and they’re keeping composure instead of folding like a lawn chair every time they don’t get their way. It’s an honor to know these women, and I’m equally thankful for the good men who adore and applaud them – because I know full well there are many.
Men and women of wisdom, much love to you. You aren’t busy defining yourselves – you’re letting the distinct features of wisdom classify you instead. You know how to stand together and you know how to confidently stand alone. If I could put you on a magazine cover, I would, but just know that I see you, my children see you, and we are learning wisdom from you, so carry on in your subtle teaching.
Please and thank you.