Grace and Wisdom

By Rich Wilson

When people think of our mission statement, they gravitate to the five pillars – developing children spiritually, academically, physically, socially and artistically.  Alternatively, they often refer to the final phrase in the statement about developing “leaders of character who value and improve the world they inherit.” However, for me the most important words in the mission statement are about teaching children “to grow in grace and wisdom.”

If you look at mission statements of independent schools, you typically won’t find these two words. That’s one of the reasons I like them. The Summit Way of developing children is distinctive versus other schools – public, parochial or independent.  

Grace is a difficult concept to understand. The Greek Bible uses the word “charis” to describe the concept of grace. It refers to how God favors those who believe in him even though as believers we sin a lot. Grace is a gift God gives us. We don’t have to earn it. He favors us because he loves us. The Latin root “gratia” means “pleasing.” The word “gratitude” is closely related to grace.

2 Corinthians 9:8 “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”

Romans 6:14 “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”

Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God ...”

When we follow God’s way of living, we exist in a state of grace. Our job as believers is to continually strive to live as Christ did. Of course none of us will achieve that perfection. Nevertheless, despite our shortcomings, God loves us anyway.

To grow in grace, therefore, means we behave in ways that help build God’s kingdom on earth. Part of that is accepting others for who they are rather than who we wish they were. That’s hard to do. Loving others unconditionally doesn’t come naturally to us. We usually are thinking about ourselves and what we want from others.  

If we can teach children that God loves them unconditionally and therefore they too should extend that gift to others, we will have given them a great gift – amazing grace.

Defining wisdom is just as hard. The faithful believe that wisdom is one of the highest gifts from the Holy Spirit. It’s not just knowledge – a word you’ll find frequently in mission statements. No, wisdom is something more profound. It’s the culmination of knowledge and experience; common sense; insight and creativity – all for the benefit of the common good.  

Benjamin Franklin said that wisdom derives from character education. That certainly speaks to an important aspect of a Summit education.  

Reading “Proverbs” in the Bible provides many examples of wisdom. Solomon was viewed as a great leader because he made decisions that were effective in furthering the common good. His means of making decisions were highly original. He had insight into how people tick and used that to creatively resolve conflicts.

Along these same lines, Confucius claimed wisdom could be learned from reflection, imitation and experience. In Taoism, one is wise if one follows the Three Treasures of Taoism: Charity, humility and simplicity.

Such consistency across faiths and philosophies speaks to the importance and power of encouraging children to use their knowledge, experience, creativity, common sense and insight to make decisions that are best for the common good. Doing so requires searching through many alternatives before deciding on the optimal one.  

It is not easy to teach grace and wisdom to children. We fail at it more than we succeed. But in the striving to do so, we grow our students’ capacity in immeasurable ways which society will value.

Growing grace and wisdom in our students is the highest expression of our mission and the Summit Way of educating children.

Reprinted from the spring 2017 issue of The Summit magazine.