Can we formularise life? Can we make up or discover a system that can guide us? Nothing is perfect. Only God’s perfect. But we can venture into Wisdom and find within it an ideal ally and companion for life. I’m proposing there are seven (7) key virtues of life (“principal values”) that can guide us in growth toward the goal of a healthy, fulfilling life that seeks to live now, and also leave behind a lovely legacy. Combined, these principal values form a neat philosophy for personal growth and development. I am writing a book on this philosophy and its draft title is, “What is truth?”
Wisdom is not simply the means to life. It’s an end in itself. God is wisdom, as he is love, as he is truth, as he is light, as he is salvation, and as he is grace, among the many other things he is. We are told wisdom existed prior to Creation. It was the first of God’s works. It is God’s nature. Therefore, if we want to make sense of life we need to see this as the key to it all.
We also need to know that acquiring wisdom requires a search, and a lifelong search at that! The depths of wisdom cannot be plumbed. As we search we will just keep finding more and more; much like a wealth of a certain resource in a mine. Using the mining analogy, we might have to employ varying techniques to get at the “ore” of wisdom and retrieve it, as well as finding varying qualities of this “ore” as we go. Some of our “finds” in this search are simply breathtaking, like the discovery of a large gold nugget or gemstone. Sometimes it is simply hard going, but we know we need to endure these times in order to discover more. Wisdom proves itself miraculous in life. It’s worth more than fine silver and gold.
The seven principal values are: diligence, prudence, shalom (which is a “whole peace”), balance, trust, respect, and wisdom, are all interdependent on each other-as one is activated and dealt with, so are the others, at least in some small way. In other words, if we improve one, we will slightly (at least) improve the others. (There is a Model in the book “What is truth?” that shows the interrelationship of these seven principal values with Wisdom and truth.)
Let’s dive in at the deep end with an illustration of the interdependence…
It can be shown that if we apply trust, which can be demonstrated in many ways, like being courageous, having faith etc, we become beneficiaries of more shalom. It takes prudence and diligence to trust – it’s not just hard work (diligence) to begin with, and it takes some self-control (prudence) to trust. It takes wisdom to be patient. Patience is a big part of trust. To trust means being honest; again, honesty is an intrinsic act of courage. To forgive anyone means we must trust, and in this way we also show respect for the person we forgive. To effectively trust we must be reasonably balanced in life. If our life is in chaos it will be more difficult to trust. Balance promotes the ability to trust. Lastly, we simply cannot implement wisdom living without a whole lot of trust.
What about another principal value?
Take shalom. To receive shalom, or as I like to put it, to “achieve shalom,” in the moment, we have to do our work (diligence), be careful about what we say and do (prudence), and we must have balance in life; we must trust God (have faith); we must be respectful; and, we need to attend to overall wisdom living, which is a summarisation of all these in any event. Shalom is always a moment-by-moment proposition. So, these principal values interact with it in a moment-by-moment way.
I have just shown the interdependence of the other six principal values with trust firstly, and then with shalom secondly. It works with each of the others as well.
Let’s now break the principal values down in a different way. It’s a way that illustrates the special holistic nature of this system of thinking or philosophy.
It covers three key life functions or situations that recur over and again:
1. Personal mastery: diligence and prudence;
2. Life-givers: shalom and balance; and,
3. Social awareness relationship enhancers: trust and respect.
Now, this theory posits that we need access to both personal mastery values and life-giving values to tap into the social awareness relationship enhancers, trust and respect. Again, interdependence. We could transpose the formula and it would work out true too.
All three lead to, and complement and enhance, wisdom. They ‘add up’ to wisdom.
Personal Mastery: Diligence and Prudence
Diligence and prudence come first because they are personal. They impact us personally, and are most noticeably created or developed (one is [i.e. ‘you’] diligent or prudent) because of personal reasons, drives, and motivations.
Diligence is order; an appreciation of the need for diligence to create order in life. It is being resolute and seeking resolution in all situations, working with tenacity, industry, and a focus on definable action. It is commitment and a firm intent, based on a heart for righteousness, and an un-religious piety which is dutifulness; a focus on carefulness; a rejection of haste. Other applicable adjectives as personal characteristics are: responsible, dependability, discipline, obedience, and leadership.
Prudence is primarily self-control over what enters and leaves the mouth, and a heart that reflects same. Everything in prudence can be rated on eating/intake and communication. It’s taking care to be silent in tenuous times, adherence to temperance, moderation in all things, discretion and finery; it’s always inoffensive and impossible to offend. Proverbs mentions that the prudent: overlook insults; act out of knowledge and not from their own opinion; give thought and consideration to their ways and steps; always think and act with the humility in heeding correction; seek refuge in dangerous situations; and, have a constant awareness of one’s context and environment.
Diligence and prudence are the centre-most character qualities that others look for in making judgments about us. They assess our character critically on these values first; on how diligent and prudent we are. If we are branded “lazy” or a “gossip” it has relevance personally. These are character attacks that speak most cogently to our levels of competence (or lack thereof) regarding both diligence and prudence.
If we are feeling personally fulfilled it will be largely because we consider that we’ve been diligent and prudent in our attitude and behaviour. Our self-image and self-esteem is buoyed this way. These are key personal values, which have a tremendous impact on the next two. These two come first.
Life-givers: Shalom and Balance
Shalom and balance go together because they are both life-giving. Though they are subtly (and importantly) different, they are highly interdependent with each other and the key to life today – the present age. If there was ever a time when we have lost focus on these it’s now!
Shalom is many things, and not simply “peace.” It’s even a feeling of completeness, and a thorough sense of self-awareness. It’s tranquility and harmony, a total absence of discord, and absolutely no cognitive dissonance. It’s the most important and best state for a human being to achieve. It’s simply heaven on earth.
If we have shalom it will be because of our level of life balance. The contra is applicable.
Balance is the thing that is missing in much of life today-it’s much more than simply “work/life balance.” It’s that and more. It’s also about autonomy and being (able to be kept) accountable. A balanced life uses time wisely and considers the various priorities and impacts of time; it’s a “focused life.” It protects our accessibility. It’s self-empowerment to be able to do things well, all the time. It’s consistently high performance. It protects and enhances vitality.
Relationship-enhancers: Trust and Respect
Trust and Respect also go together and come last before Wisdom and are both relational. Again, these are highly interdependent on each other; if one does not respect people, trust is not afforded back in those relationships. If you don’t trust someone, they are unlikely to respect you – it’s a very reciprocal arrangement.
Trust is love never failing, and a seeking for kindness. It’s the grace to forgive and forget, gratitude in all things, and acceptance of things that cannot be changed. It’s also the detachment of one to one’s desires, openness to all good things, a call to perseverance, and it’s also never losing hope.
Respect is a seeking for justice and righteousness, sincerity, and giving honour to all people; it’s listening more than what would normally be expected, as well as an unquestioned integrity, driven by humility, compassion, empathy, and fairness, at any cost; it’s consideration whenever it is due, and even sometimes when it is not, and tolerance for all people; it’s being socially intelligent.
Not the “Means;” It’s The End And Purpose of Life Itself: Wisdom
Finally, wisdom is separated out as unique and special. Nothing is like wisdom. Wisdom is truth; the way things are. Wisdom and truth are both synonymous and highly interchangeable.
Truth is wisdom; longevity based in truth – it works always – being grounded in it. Striving for health and wellbeing, a true wholesomeness based in the right fear of God, seeking to understand rather than be understood. It’s both and simultaneously eternal and transitory in perspective; it’s the totality of true perspective. It’s a right curiosity and a true appreciation of beauty and excellence.
Wisdom is as broad as life, and many would suggest infinitely broader than even that.
We look at wisdom from purely a life-perspective, however. (We take into account only this aspect of wisdom. Theologically and practically, wisdom is as broad as “Creation.”) Wisdom provides the three keys to life: long life and its associated benefits, prosperity in its different forms, and honour, which is your name, fame, and reputation-it’s what you will take to Heaven; the only thing perhaps.
So, this philosophy is the answer to the question: “What is truth?” For when it’s all been said and done, there’s just one thing that matters: living for truth. Did you or didn’t you? That will be the question asked of you. Even at the 11th hour you may not have been, but it’s the finish that counts. Will you finish strongly?
The application of these seven principal values can catapult anyone into character growth and development that seeks only for truth; reality at any cost, even to the expense of the individual concerned. Because there is something more important than personal comfort and ease; it’s pleasing God. You can only come to know real peace, joy and love through a relationship with God.
What is truth? This question is, in my opinion, the key to the purpose of life; a life, again in my opinion, that is only available through a true Spirit-filled relationship with Jesus Christ; only he can effectively answer our innermost searching questions and satisfy our deepest longings.
With him, and him alone, truth is available; truth that finally and powerfully sets us free.
© 2008 Steven John Wickham. All rights reserved Worldwide.
 See Proverbs 3:2, 16; 21:21; 22:4.