Is There A Difference Between Knowledge and Wisdom?

Hourglass in sand

Is knowledge different from wisdom? Yes, it is.

Knowledge is merely accumulation of information (facts, ideas, skills etc.). intelligence is the ability to discern, understand and apply knowledge, whereas wisdom is the ability to look at and understand things from a deeper perspective.

Knowledge comes through learning whereas wisdom comes through experience and self awareness.

Knowledge is generally sought outside, but wisdom is found by going within.

Let’s look at a few examples to better understand the differences:

1. Having an excellent vocabulary is knowledge. Ability to use this vocabulary to speak eloquently is intelligence whereas knowing when to speak and when to remain silent is wisdom.

2. Learning the techniques to make money is knowledge. Using these techniques to acquire money is intelligence. Not allowing money to rule (or your possessions to possess) you is wisdom.

3. Learning about the stars and planets is knowledge. Using this knowledge to write a book is intelligence. Realizing how little you know about this vast universe is wisdom.

4. Learning about how to reach your goals is knowledge. Putting up a plan and working toward your goal is intelligence. Learning to enjoy the process and not to get overly attached to the outcome is wisdom.

5. Learning martial arts is knowledge. Using this knowledge to defend yourself is intelligence. Knowing when to fight and when to avoid confrontation is wisdom.

So as would be clear from these examples, knowledge without wisdom is of little use as knowledge can only get you so far. Real growth comes through wisdom.

8 Important traits of a wise individual

The following are 8 important traits associated with wisdom.

1. Awareness

“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.” – Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

Wisdom comes through awareness. Awareness of your mind, body, attention, thoughts, emotions, behavior, ego, subconscious beliefs, ideas and ideologies. When there is a lack of awareness, the mind becomes your master, but with awareness, you can master your mind and this is where wisdom begins.

2. Fluidity

“Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” – Bruce Lee

Wisdom makes you more fluid. You no longer hold onto rigid beliefs, ideas and ideologies. Instead, you realize that these are just temporary structures and will keep changing as you evolve.

3. Emotional intelligence

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” – Aristotle

Emotions are to your body what thoughts are to your mind. With wisdom comes the ability to understand and stay aware of your body and emotions. You are no longer in a reactive state to your emotions, instead you become responsive.

For example, when angry, a wise person will not let the anger control them into acting irrationally. Instead, they become conscious of the anger and act responsibly based on what the situation demands.

4. Empathy

With wisdom comes empathy or the ability to understand yourself and the other on a deeper level. Anyone can be sympathetic, but it takes a wise mind to be empathetic.

And with empathy, come other related traits like kindness, forgiveness and unbiased understanding.

5. Balance

Life is a balance between holding on and letting go. – Rumi

A wise person does not give into excesses. Wisdom is about balance, harmony and walking the middle path.

It is this balanced approach that allows you to view things from a balanced or neutral perspective.

6. Looking at things objectively

“Change the way you look at things and things you look at change.” – Wayne Dyer

Wisdom gives you the ability to look at things from an objective or neutral perspective rather than from a biased or subjective perspective.

When you look at things subjectively, you look at it through a lens of preconceived ideas, beliefs and ideologies. Looking at things objectively means to discard this lens and see things for what they are. This also leads to unbiased understanding.

7. Always open to learning/growing

“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.” – Socrates

Once a person thinks that they know everything, they stop growing. They become rigid in their beliefs/ideas and that is the opposite of wisdom.

A wise person knows that learning does not stop ever and therefore they are ever curious, ever inquisitive.

Every day you are a new person as you reflect and learn from the experiences of the previous day.

8. Self reflection

“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.” ― Confucious

It is one thing to know about things and another to reflect on these things to understand them from a deeper perspective. A wise person always takes time to be reflective of their thoughts/beliefs/ideas/ideologies. They grow through reflection.

One of the prerequisites of being reflective is a conscious mind. Once when you are conscious, can you use your conscious mind to reflect on that which is unconscious or hidden.

Quotes on what wisdom is

The following is a collection of quotes by some really wise people on what wisdom really is.

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”
– Socrates

“It is the mark of a wise mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”
– Aristotle, Metaphysics

“Turn your wounds into wisdom.”
– Unknown

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
– Socrates

“Angry people are not always wise.”
– Unknown

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”

“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.”
– Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

“Don’t Gain The World & Lose Your Soul, Wisdom Is Better Than Silver Or Gold.”
– Bob Marley

“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.”
– Jimi Hendrix

“Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.”
– Rumi

“We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.”
– Leo Tolstoy

“He who knows all the answers has not been asked all the questions.”
– Confucius

“The desire to reach for the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise.”
Maya Angelou

“The more I read, the more I acquire, the more certain I am that I know nothing.”
– Voltaire

“Wisdom cannot be imparted. Wisdom that a wise man attempts to impart always sounds like foolishness to someone else. Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. One can find it, live it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it.”
– Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.”
– Socrates

“It is one thing to be clever and another to be wise.”
– George R.R. Martin

“Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.”
A.A. Milne

“I ask not for any crown, but that which all may win; Nor try to conquer any world, except the one within.”
– Louisa May Alcott

“Wisdom is not a product of schooling but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.”
– Albert Einstein

“The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.”
– Thomas Szasz

“A man is not called wise because he talks and talks again; but if he is peaceful, loving and fearless then he is in truth called wise.”
– Dhammapada

“It is strange how often a heart must be broken before the years can make it wise.”
– Sara Teasdale

“We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.”
– Marcel Proust

“You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him find it within himself.”
– Galileo

“The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.”
– Emerson

How does one become wise?

Wisdom is open to everybody. You don’t need to read scores and scores of books or acquire knowledge to become wise. All you need to do is develop the faculty of self reflection.

Wisdom is not an absolute thing that can be attained. You cannot learn yourself into becoming wise. Instead, wisdom is a constant journey that involves reflection and change.

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About the Author
Mukesh is the founder of He is a writer, author and meditation teacher. Having suffered from anxiety and depression for a good part of his adult life, he used meditation, attention training and self awareness to break free from these limiting mind patterns. You can learn more on his personal blog -
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