Smart vs. Wise: Which is Better?

The benefits of brilliance
Okay, I know you want your kiddo to be smart, get good grades, and achieve lots of academic success. It’s wonderful to see that ‘A’ on the report card, and it makes you feel proud and encouraged for your child’s future.  

Smart = Wise?
We want our kids to be smart, but does that mean they’ll be wise too? If a child gets good grades, will they also make good decisions in their life?  That’s a tough one.  Research has shown that smart people tend to be happier and more successful. However, is it always a sure bet that they’re wiser?  I think we know that there are lots of smart people in jail. As a psychologist, I also know that there are lots of smart people who are not especially happy. I also know that there a lot of less-than-brilliant people who are very happy, and not in jail. Smart doesn’t equal wise.

The Wisdom Factor?
So what the different between being smart and being wise. Smart people may have a high IQ, but wise people make good decisions. They know when to say no. That begs the question: what are “good decisions?” It could be said that ‘good decisions’ are those choices that keep us out of trouble, help and bring us closer to others, and benefit our lives and the lives of others. The more we do such things, the happier and more content we’ll be.

Where does wisdom come from?
We can read from the book of Proverbs, the “manual for living”,  that God cherishes wisdom much more than smarts and such has since helped to “keep us from making wrong turns or following the bad direction.”  Am I saying that wisdom comes from our relationship with God; well, yea, I am. How else do we learn right from wrong and stay strong to do what’s right?

Where does that leave our kids?
Okay, back to where we started; you want your child to be smart and earn good grades. However, you also want your child to be make good decisions, have good and healthy interpersonal boundaries and relationships, not make  a wreck of their lives, help others, and be as joyful as possible despite inevitable trials and tribulations.  To put it more simply (albeit less clinically), we want our children to avoid sin and do what is pleasing in God’s eyes.  I think that’s why we, as parents, go to such great lengths to get our kids to church, Sunday school, CCD, Synagogue, or wherever you go to get closer to, and learn about God. We inherently know that the closer our child is to knowing and understanding God, the more likely he or she is to make better choices. We also remember that ‘what you do speaks so loudly I can’t hear what you say’, so we work extra hard to model, for our children, a virtuous life.

Smarts vs wisdom
I’ll be happy if both my kids earn straight A’s, are valedictorians, go to medical school, and find a cure for cancer. However, I’ll be positively thrilled if they, quite simply, are wise. How about you?

Feel free to comment, or email me directly at jcarosso@cpcwecare.com. God Bless.

Dr. John Carosso

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Dr. John Carosso

Dr. Carosso has more than 30 years of experience as a licensed Child Clinical Psychologist and Certified School Psychologist working in private, inpatient, outpatient, residential, school, and home settings. He is Clinical Director of Community Psychiatric Centers (cpcwecare.com), a licensed Behavioral Health Outpatient Clinic, and operates both the Autism Center of Pittsburgh (autismcenterofpittsburgh.com) and the Dyslexia Diagnostic and Treatment Center (dyslexiatreaters.com).