This month we’re going to be taking a look at one of the things often mentioned as a benefit of getting older, wisdom. So what is gay wisdom, and how does one go about developing it? Let’s start by understanding what wisdom is, and how gay wisdom might differ from conventional wisdom.
What is wisdom?
Wisdom has to do with how we deal with new situations. It is inner guidance that allows us to react skillfully to new, even very challenging situations. But, wisdom isn’t innate. It’s something that we develop though life experience.
Wisdom is developed over time.
The reason that wisdom if most often associated with age is because it is developed over time. As we experience life we are meant to be leaning and growing. Every experience we have, no matter how small, or how challenging, has value. Each new experience is an opportunity to develop knowledge. Applying that knowledge in novel ways and in different circumstances, is how we develop wisdom.
As we get older our ability to navigate challenging situations develops through all the experiences we’ve had. There is no substitute for experience. When we say that someone is “wise beyond their years” we’re talking about a richness of life experience that’s pushed them ahead of their peers.
What about gay wisdom?
Let’s get more specific about what I’m calling gay wisdom. Everyone in our community has had challenging and unique experiences, that are part of being queer. Even though some of them may have been extremely difficult, they’ve allowed us to grow.
For most gay people, particularly men, that growth is hard won. We’ve faced bullying in school, homophobic parents and religious organizations, challenges with acceptance in the workplace, among many others. As difficult as they may have been, they are also fertile ground for developing higher perspectives. Gay wisdom, if we are strong enough to develop it, allows us to thrive in a world that sometimes hates us. It gives us the discernment to know when to back down and when to fight. The judgment to know when we’re safe and when an approaching threat is real. Gay wisdom is how we survive in a world of straight privilege.
The role of coming out.
Wisdom can also be gained through self-knowledge. As queer people we’ve all faced a difficult choice many times in our lives “Am I going to show up as me, or am I gong to hide?”. If you’ve done your work you’ll choose to hide less often. You recognize who you really are and the value you bring to any table when you’re being authentically you. That’s part of every human’s journey, but the lesson is harsher and more powerful for us. Gay wisdom has a lot to do with being real.
Whether you grow, or not, is always up to you.
Developing wisdom is a choice. We can use the experience of our oppression to help us understand the impacts of oppression on a much wider scale. That will allow us to align ourselves with a fight for human rights beyond any of the groups we happen to belong to. But, we can also use that experience to put up walls and ignore broader societal issues. If we think that having fought our own battles is good enough we’ve missed the point. That is the opposite of wisdom. It’s ignorance.
Embrace all your experiences.
The more open to life you are the greater your opportunity to grow. The deeper your experiences the more profoundly you can develop. Once the ball gets rolling you being to grow exponentially and your wisdom expands and deepens with you. Wisdom starts to generalize across many areas of your life. It can be applied during radically new experiences. This brings us a confidence we seldom see in younger people. A sense of self-assured ease is one of the greatest gifts that we can give ourselves as we get older. Developing wisdom is the path to get there.