Rigorous Honesty

Whether it is a reference to confirmation bias or acknowledging the frame that shapes how we sort through information, more people now acknowledge that our account of reality is always partial and selective. This may seem like the novel result of our experience of current events, but in a new translation of the Bible book of Job Edward Greenstein argues that this is ancient wisdom. Most commentators agree that much of Job is a conversation about divine justice. Job’s so-called friends argue for the traditional teaching that good people will prosper and wicked people will be destroyed by God’s justice. In contrast, Job deeply laments his own suffering, fears that no one can be worthy before God and stubbornly observes that wicked people do often prosper. It is remarkable then that in 42:7 God commends Job for being the only one who has spoken honestly about God. The so-called friends relied on a kind of second-hand knowledge as they quoted traditional wisdom. Job authentically described his experience and what he saw happening in the world around him even when it might put him in jeopardy.

This insight that God values and commends rigorous honesty is essential when we want to grow spiritually. Whether we are in a dry place, a long dark night of the soul or working with our shadow the way forward is rigorous honesty, honesty that clears away our pretensions and more accurately manifests our relationship with the whole that encompasses us. Such honesty is often painful and unattractive. Such honesty is often widely rejected, but the goal of living more closely with God requires it. The spiritual journey pursues honest.


As a child I learned to pray for wisdom, probably from hearing that “God is the beginning of wisdom” or that “wisdom is more valuable than gold.” Wisdom has long been valued by society, but there hasn’t been much analysis of what it is or where it comes from. Often wisdom was simply associated with age. More recently there has been interest in studying wisdom. One researcher finds that wisdom is associated with five methods: “challenging beliefs; prompt the articulation of values; encourage self-development; encourage self-reflection; and groom the moral emotions – facilitated by the reading of narrative or didactic texts and fostering a community of inquiry.” With this focus on methods, it becomes easier to see that wisdom is a process, a way of approaching a problem or a situation. Building on this insight helps us recognize that acquiring wisdom can be facilitated by learning skills. The Center for Practical Wisdom at the University of Chicago has been working in this area and has made a short film that shows how teaching skills and focusing on methods of knowing and acting can promote wise action in communities. To view their film click this link. https://wisdomcenter.uchicago.edu/news/wisdom-news/turmoil-unrest-wise-decision-making-science-wisdom-film-released-public-viewing