Wisdom and Love

Never mistake knowledge for wisdom.
One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life.

– Sandra Carey

Wisdom lives in each of us. Similar to every other natural capacity, nurturing relationships are required to draw wisdom forth. What is wisdom? You will find our working description below in the excerpt from Josette’s dissertation. My favorite part is the description offered by the parents she worked with. Unfortunately, most conventional education approaches neglect that drawing forth wisdom is the primary work of parents and educators. Over the past 30 years I have talked with thousands of parents and educators. Most express a deep desire for their children to actualize wisdom. Parents say that the qualities we want our children to develop include aspects of wisdom such as patience, honesty, compassion, respect, empathy, humility, gratitude, and inspiration. Most parents love their children, deeply and meaningfully. What’s missing? Shouldn’t that love be sufficient?

Ironically, the wisdom relationships that parents and educators also need for wisdom-based relationships to emerge have been neglected. If they consider their wisdom needs at all, elders are expected to have their needs met outside of the family, usually in a retreat or spiritual practice. Ironically, that wisdom emerges in the home and in the school, in everyday interactions. The thing is, wisdom must be nurtured.

Few have known how to do this. Even fewer have known how to educate others as to what is missing and how it might be supplied. And those few have either not known how to communicate their understanding or have done so in a specialized academic or esoteric language that is not readily available to the people who need it most everyday—parents and teachers.

Natural Learning Relationships and Summa are the rare exception. Josette Luvmour (Dr. J) leads Summa’s Parent Enrichment Program. This program brings the opportunity for wisdom-based relationships into the home of every Summa parent.  Our Teacher Training program does the same for our educators. The following is one small excerpt from Dr.J.’s evidence-based research. (Emphases below are mine.)

—————[Excerpt Begins]—————
Wisdom was reported by half of the participants in this study; that is, they reported a shift in their quality of being. As demonstrated earlier, intentional effort to nurture the child’s development offered opportunities to re-examine, reorganize, and even transcend earlier development thereby shifting to more complex forms of development. Wisdom is a more complex form of adult development involving several components. The qualitative analysis of the data revealed the emergence of five key aspects of wisdom: (a) service, (b) presence, (c) compassion, (d) insight, and (e) gratitude (as outlined in the table below). Moreover, the quantitative analysis showed that a higher level of child development competence was associated with wisdom. This section goes into detail about the emergence of wisdom that participants experienced as a result of nurturing their children’s developmental imperatives.

Jess, Katherine, Mackenzie, Maria, and Stephanie reported experiences that plainly describe greater access to the natural human capacity of wisdom. Mackenzie offered a good example of expressing wisdom in her relationships with her two children and with others:

I trust that there is wisdom in every interaction, and that if I can sit back and let that wisdom emerge, it will take us where we need to go. That’s what happened with my kids, and that’s what happens with my clients, and that happens with me. That’s part of being in the wisdom of the moment with them.

Mackenzie went on to describe what she meant by her use of the word “wisdom”:

Wisdom is a knowing.  It’s not the kind of knowing I get from my head and my intellect, though my intellect gets to contribute. It’s not the kind of knowing I get from my heart and emotions, though my feelings get to contribute. Although there is a spiritual component, it is not a spiritual knowing. There is wholeness to my wisdom that incorporates all of those kinds of knowing. My wisdom is generally very simple. There is rightness to it—not a right/wrong [type of] rightness but simply a deep “is-ness.” I can tell it’s wisdom by how I feel. There’s not struggle in wisdom. There may be struggling getting there but one of the ways I know that I am in wisdom is by its simplicity, its wholeness, its rightness. I have a certain peace in wisdom. I might be sad or happy or angry but underlying that is a peace in knowing.
… [Child development information] is not something I use, it is something I am. ... It’s always part of who I’m being. … ... I can live with uncertainty now.

Katherine said,

It’s mysterious as to why this knowledge base of [child development] is somehow spiritual for me ... It gives me the possibility of connecting at a deeper level with humanity because humanity goes from babies all the way through to the old-age…. child development adds a spiritual dimension to the relational part of my practice.

The data revealed the emergence of 5 key aspects of wisdom:
1. ServiceGiving of self for the benefit of others; Using child development knowledge for the benefit of others
2. PresenceThe ability to bring all of one’s self with full attention to the moment
3. CompassionThe ability to feel, understand, and care for the suffering of another person without taking over the other’s experience
4. InsightA moment of new realization and/or feelings of greater understanding involving seeing new relationships; The ability to be consciously aware of more of the whole all at once
5. GratitudeFeelings of appreciation and thankfulness; Expressions of appreciation and/or thankfulness

An unexpected result in this study was that some adults not only made new meaning of old childhood experiences and experienced well-being, but they also reported increased wisdom with experiences of compassion, service, greater presence, insight, and gratitude. Wisdom is a human potential that is associated with many significant real-life pragmatic characteristics. However, the literature in adult development does not mention that relationships with children can be a context for the emergence of wisdom. It was serendipity to find that access to wisdom emerged in some adults who continued to make intentional effort to nurture the child’s developmental imperatives. It was delightful to learn that if the adult is ready and willing to make a commitment to learn how children develop, engage self-reflection, and understand the child’s worldview, then the emergence of wisdom is possible. A model of the emergence of wisdom that unfolded in this study is demonstrated in Figure 4 below.

Summa Institute


—————[Excerpt Ends]—————

Participants in this study were a randomly selected group from program graduates of a family-development program similar to the Family Enrichment Program that is part of Summa Academy today. The parents studied for this project had not been coached by Dr. J. or myself;  nor did they have any formal training in Natural Learning Relationships for at least 10 years prior to the research project. Thus, we maintain that, after the initial NLR training, their Love for their children was a primary motivator to make the intentional effort to engage wisdom-based relationships with their children.

Love and Wisdom. Wisdom and Love.


Luvmour, J. (2010). Adult development: Emergent wisdom in the family context. Saarbrücken, Germany: Lambert Academic.

02/22/15 | 1 Comment | Wisdom and Love


  • 1.I've been searching for years for someone with the same innate wisdom I have when it comes to parenting. I've found you and your blog today. I have no formal education in parenting but what I have found to be effective is this ontological way of parenting. I've just ordered your book Optimal Parenting and cannot wait to dig in. I've not written any books or blogs. I just have my life coaching I've been through and using it to raise my children in a truly authentic way of life and being. I've just started my own business to help parents start these conversations with their own children. I'm grateful to have found your expertise. It will help me in my journey.

    Grace Wright | September 2015 | st. Louis mo

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