Advent with A Kempis IV

Chapter 4: Prudence in Our Actions

“It is also a part of wisdom neither to believe everything we hear, nor to pour it immediately into another’s ear.”

I recently saw a bumper sticker that read, “Don’t Believe Everything You Think.” I appreciate the caution as it makes me reflect on the word believe. Etymologically, believe comes from the Old English word belyfan, which has earlier roots in the Proto-Germanic word ga-laubjan. Besides being a fun word to say, ga-laubjan means “to love and hold dear.”[1] Similarly, the word “creed” comes from the Latin credo, which literally means “to put heart.”[2]

When we believe something, we give our heart to it and commit to holding it dear. Although we can hold a loving posture towards all things, we simply cannot commit our whole hearts and care to all things. We need to wisely discern where and to whom we “put our hearts.”

As we discern where to put our hearts, Kempis encourages us not to attach ourselves to every word and thought that crosses our minds but rather “to weigh each carefully and unhurriedly before God.” This exercise requires patience and humility and the ability to identify bullshit (ie. gossip). Kempis writes, “The more humble you are in heart and the more you submit yourself to God, the wiser you will be in everything, and greater peace will be yours.”

According to Kempis, the best way to start discerning where to put our hearts when it comes to our thoughts and ideas is to first put our hearts in God. Wisdom and peace, Kempis claims, will soon follow.

[1] Online Etymology Dictionary, “believe,” Douglas Harper, (accessed December 3, 2009).

[2] Online Etymology Dictionary, “creed,” Douglas Harper, (accessed December 3, 2009).


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