Wisdom is Mind Change
By Gordon Ferguson
The title reminds many of us of an excellent book written by Tom Jones about how he came to view and deal with multiple sclerosis. It is a most encouraging and inspiring book, and one that I imagine Wyndham and his family have received much help from as they deal with his debilitating disease. But this article is about the abundant wisdom possessed by Wyndham, and so we are discussing other aspects of mind change.
Changing our minds is not often an easy task. It is not science but much closer to an art form. Many questions asked and answered about mind change tell us a lot about a person. How quick are we to change our minds – too quick or too slow? What causes us to change our minds – emotions or clear reasoning? Who influences us most to change our minds – those closest to us or those who make the most sense? What is our attitude about changing our minds – willingness or begrudging reluctance? What motivation is strongest regarding changing our minds – a desire to be right or to determine truth? Good questions, don’t you think?
The whole process of mind change is demonstrated so well by Wyndham. I’ve watched him in this process many times in many circumstances with many people. He has mastered the process in a way that few have, providing us with yet another lens through which to observe his wisdom.
Wyndham is a slow thinker in one sense – not caused by a limitation of intellectual powers at all, but by a self-imposed spiritual limitation. He simply refuses to rush into judgment. I have known many leaders in the church who prided themselves on being able (in their minds, at least) to size up situations and make very quick decisions. Often these decisions were made after hearing only one side of a story (often a friend’s or another leader’s side) and were many times of a nature that the lives of others were significantly affected by their knee-jerk decisions. Just thinking about the times I observed this process in the past gives me a pit in my stomach right now. Had those types of self-assured, cocky, arrogant decision-makers not read the Bible?
James 1:19 – “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
Proverbs 17:27 – “The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.”
Proverbs 29:20 – “Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them.”
Proverbs 18:17 – “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.”
Wyndham is a very patient and careful listener. He won’t interrupt a person sharing their heart – and he won’t let others interrupt them either. I know – I’ve been in both places with him! He and Tom Jones remain two of my most trusted confidants, the two men whose counsel I cherish most. After leaving Boston years ago, I have flown back to Boston on several occasions primarily just to get time with Wyndham and have him talk me off of the ledge. He not only knows how to change his mind in right directions, but he can help others do that in a masterful way.
He changes his own mind by time-tested biblical and practical principles. He is not quick to change his mind, but he does understand the time sensitivity of some decisions. Unlike some leaders I have known, he is not afraid to make decisions because of worrying about being wrong or worrying about possible reactions or responses. He just wants to make righteous decisions, not necessarily popular ones. His quest for truth drives him, and he is never satisfied with good or better when best is within reach.
His mind changes are seldom emotionally based but based on those principles mentioned above that fit the situation most clearly. That being true, the emotions of others are not weighed much in the final decisions, although they are respected and listened to carefully leading up to that final decision. His wisdom in changing his mind and the minds of others leads him into answering all of those other questions raised in the second paragraph in the right way. He is never overly influenced by who is speaking, but rather by what is being said. Neither favoritism nor sentimentality will carry the day with him. What is right is the clear target and not who is right, himself or anyone else in the discussion.
As all of these articles in Jeanie’s blog show, Wyndham’s wisdom is demonstrated in many, many ways. But in my judgment, it is shown perhaps best in the realm of mind change – his own and that of others through his direction. He is not only at the top of my list when seeking guidance in the most serious life matters, but at the top of my wife’s list as well. He earned that spot soon after our arrival in Boston in 1988 by carefully guiding us through our needed mind changes about our marriage and ministry. I don’t think I would have survived the ministry part without him, and I know that our marriage would not have become what it has without him. Mind change, the fine art of discovering the pinnacle of spiritual thinking, is sought by many but mastered by few. Wyndham Shaw is one of the few.