Wisdom: Impulse or Inspiration

What were your first thoughts when you saw the word impulse? Did you wonder how impulse was connected to wisdom? That was my first response when I was considering this title. How about your response to the word “inspiration?” Can you see a connection between inspiration and wisdom? My guess is that you can make that connection easier than you can between impulse and wisdom.

Why do you think that is? Well, if you look up “impulse” you’ll find that inspiration is a synonym for it. But the word “impulse” is usually used in a negative sense. When we say someone is impulsive, we typically mean that they act without thinking or planning. They haven’t considered the ramifications of their actions, which often result in something less than positive.

Inspiration on the other hand implies a positive idea. We believe it to be an idea that has come from somewhere deep inside of us. Something that reflects a passion we have or something we believe has been “divinely” initiated. Therefore, it’s easy for us to expect inspiration to be a part of wisdom while impulse probably isn’t.

However, I think that’s a mistake!

I suggest that both words are very much a part of wisdom!

Inspiration is often the source of great ideas and visions for a better future in some significant way. Impulse is the nudge that says, “Take action and do it now!” If all you do is have an idea and you never act on it, nothing happens. Nobody benefits. Nothing is changed or improved. And, sometimes, things even get worse.

Think for a moment about Rosa Parks who had the urge to sit down on a seat in the front of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama. She sat down because she was tired: tired after a full day of work and tired of having to walk past empty seats in the front of the bus. She wasn’t intending to ignite a fire under the Civil Rights issue but she did. She simply followed an impulse that started a chain of events that changed American history.

It got her arrested but it was the right thing to do…and it happened because she responded to an impulse. Acting on an impulse can get you in trouble but more often NOT acting on our impulses keeps us from dong something good that could at least have had a positive impact on someone else or perhaps kept you from positively influencing the world.

  • Impulses create an opportunity for action and wisdom tells us when an impulse might get us in trouble.
  • Impulses that are ignored are often lost opportunities because we let our fears of the unknown make us hesitate and turn away.
  • Impulses sometimes appear to have negative consequence but those consequences may be worth it.
  • Wisdom can help us recognize this.

Rosa Parks knew she could be arrested by refusing to change seats but she decided to stick with her impulse and ride it out.

Aren’t we glad she did’!

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