One of the most important lesson I’ve learned in life — one I wished I had learned in my tenties or thirties — I learned from author Charles Dickens and my partner in life, Linda.
Years ago, I was paging through a book of quotes on my front porch in Denver, Colo.
It’s then that I discovered a quote from novelist Charles Dickens, one of my favorite writers: “A loving heart is the truest wisdom.” Although it seemed brilliant, and I was drawn to it, the quote created cognitive dissonance in me.
My logical mind said: How could a loving heart be the truest wisdom?
Love is an emotion.
Wisdom is a cerebral function, the antithesis of emotion.
Whereas love can be foolish and blind, even outright stupid, wisdom is intelligent, clear-eyed, and directed.
Love happens; wisdom is gained through experiences that lead us to deeper understandings, to knowledge as to what is right and wrong.
Wise individuals are guided by knowledge, not led down blind alleys by emotion. Wisdom and love could not be farther apart, which meant they could not be one and the same, as Dickens suggests.
I let the words rattle around in my brain for many years, for at some level, I sensed that there was a kernel of truth to Dickens’ aphorism. Over time, I began to realize that love and wisdom are related — very closely related.
Initially, mine was a vague realization that crystallized with age, experience, and observation. Slowly, the truth — indeed wisdom — of Mr. Dickens’ quote became clear. What I realized as I pondered Dickens’ advice was that love can inform logic. It can make us wiser.
As a father of two grown boys — now both in their twenties — and a partner of a wise, loving woman for 15 years, I see with great clarity that a loving heart is indeed the truest form of wisdom.
I began to understand the relationship between love and wisdom more deeply as I watched Linda raise her two children. Soon after we had started dating, it became obvious to me that Linda failed to get upset — or refused to let herself get upset — by things that aggravated the hell out of me.
Why Linda let so many things like this slide was elementary: Her relationship with her children was far more important than minor infractions.
Getting upset or angry, she felt, endangered their relationship. In other words, preserving love was far more important than spilled milk or selfishness.
Today, her children love her deeply. I can see in their eyes that they’re profoundly committed to their mother, and they’ve developed better manners and many of the finer attributes we like to inspire in our children.
Linda’s love of her children extends to adult friends as well. Over and over, I have observed her cut friends slack for things that would throw many of us into a tizzy. Why?
The same reason: her relationships are more important than misbehavior. Slowly but surely, over many years, guided by Linda’s patient, loving wisdom, Charles Dickens’ words began to make sense to me.
It is now as clear as can be: if we operate out of love for others, the quality of our lives can soar to new heights.
Our lives are so much more peaceful and rewarding. We can overcome much negativity. The Dalai Lama spoke of the palliative benefits of love when he wrote, “One can overcome the forces of negative emotions, like anger and hatred, by cultivating their counterforces, like love and compassion.”
Learning to love all people — not just our children and partners — is a giant step in our personal evolution and is most likely the love of which Dickens was speaking. If we can love all people at some level, regardless of their differences, and enter our relationships with others from a place of love, we have the potential to create an amazing world.
On a personal level, you will create a warm and sacred place where love flows freely. Think, too, how wonderful the world would be if local, national, and international relations were guided by the love we have for one another.
Try it today. Let your love for others reign supreme. Let your love guide you on to a path that is simultaneously fulfilling and nurturing to those whose lives intersect yours.
Contributing editor Dan Chiras is a renewable energy and green homes expert who has spent a lifetime learning life’s lessons, which he shares in his popular blog, Dan Chiras on Loving Life. He’s the founder and director of The Evergreen Institute and president of Sustainable Systems Design. Contact him by visiting his website or finding him on Google+.