Wisdom, Solicitude, and the Phantom of Fear

What happens when you subconsciously mistranslate wisdom into fear?

One will propel you forward, the other will hold you back--or worse.


What happens when you subconsciously mistranslate wisdom into fear?

Bear with me. This is not a spiritual lesson, but that is the station from which my own train of thought started that ultimately brought me to the destination I'm presenting to you here. Even if it's not your cuppa tea, I assure you it's leading up to a takeaway for everyone. Pour yourself a brandy in the dining car and enjoy the ride!

About a year ago, for what at this point could be any number of reasons that I have since forgotten, I was pondering wisdom. What is it? How do you get it? Job Chapter 28 describes Wisdom as the most precious yet elusive treasure that is so rare that no one has seen it. Okay. I can see this is going to be a challenge, but, okay, I'll bite.

Moving on to what clues other passages might give about wisdom, I was reminded of a Proverb that says, "Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." I'd heard this before, but something struck me about it this time. It was the word "Fear." Come to think of it, that's a very strange thing to associate with wisdom. Fear weakens us, it often puts us at our worst, it makes us do things we wouldn't otherwise do, it defrays good decision making, it keeps us from being the best version of ourselves. Fear precludes intentional action. Fear is counterproductive to wisdom and counterintuitive to the meaning of this Proverb.

At this point, I began thinking not about the idea of fear, but of the word itself, the actual group of letters written on paper meant to communicate the intent of the author to their audience. (For the more curious types, feel free to look up the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, aka linguistic relativity, for more in-depth information on the effect of language on our conscious perceptions.) Most of these texts are ancient and were transcribed into English centuries ago by medieval translators who, by today's standards, would be lacking in breadth of education. What if the problem really is as simple as a bad translation?

So I get out the dictionary and look up the word "fear" and begin to examine words closely related to it under synonyms. The list is fairly short so it didn't take long to come across the word "solicitude." Solicitude means great care or concern for someone or something. The example given was a man caring for his sick wife with solicitude.

Think about that, the difference between a man with fear and a man with solicitude caring for a sick wife. The man with solicitude has all due respect for the seriousness of his sick wife's condition, but he is in control of himself, he is centered, he is calm. The fearful man is powerless. Of course, there are many things outside of ourselves that we are powerless to control, but the fearful man is powerless over even himself. If he has no power over himself, then what good can come of anything he undertakes? Of course solicitude is an extraordinarily more appropriate word in the context of wisdom.

Fast forward to today when by happenstance I found myself on the road for several hours with nary to do in my travels except ponder and pontificate... to myself. (I may or may not have done this out loud while driving.) Many of us who are at various stations along the road to this new career as a nurse find ourselves full of fear. Fear of the competition of the admissions process. Fear of the nursing program. Fear of the NCLEX. Fear of that first catheter insert or needle stick. Fear of future working relationships and acceptance. Fear of all kinds of things, big and small.

Considering how relatively little introspection most of us really do, I think it's highly likely that our inner translator that serves as a diplomatic ambassador between that intangible blob of feelings and our conscious experience is about as adept as a medieval scribe. What if--what if--that fear is actually the wisdom of solicitude that's simply been lost in translation by our own under-informed interpreter? Because solicitude towards class and future responsibilities and working relationships is wise. Solicitude puts you in control of your actions. Solicitude builds character. Fear tears it down.

Solicitude and fear are not the same thing. They are merely cross-referenced on the same page in the dictionary. Time to fine tune your gages and put the fear away, ladies and gentlemen, and realize that what you are feeling is actually something to regard with pride.


TuesdaysChild is currently a pre-nursing student in Texas. If successful, it will be a second career for her. She is a jack of endless trades, master of... maybe two? Someday she hopes to work with overseas humanitarian organizations as a nurse in various capacities.

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Specializes in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology.

This gets all the likes. :D

I find this very serendipitous as I was just writing in my journal and basically had this same conclusion. This very idea is something that for you, as a pre-nursing student, is essential to grasp -- hold on to it with all of your might. This idea will be tested and you will wonder in awe at many of your peers at to what it is they are so afraid of, especially as that fear gets translated into constant whining about how unfair everything in nursing school is.

As to the fear = solicitude idea, I went to a private Christian school for far too long and we were taught that the fear of God meant respecting the will and word of God and not actually being afraid of God. Thinking of it as solicitude is actually a much more elegant way to behold that concept.

I also appreciate the way you applied it to the perspective of a caregiver. I work in pediatric hemonc and I have always marveled at the way the parents conduct themselves with so much solicitude in the face of impossible odds. Sure, there are times when the fear overcomes them, especially at the beginning, but the way that their inner strength and resources rise to the occasion is inspirational to say the least. This solicitude is something I have learned a great deal from, especially when it comes to dealing with challenges on the floor. I don't scare easy anymore because it is this idea of solicitude that I wish to draw from. I just never had a way of verbalizing that until now.


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Thank you. As a working nurse, I really appreciate that input from your own experience! It was also a bit serendipitous that the example given by the dictionary happened to be in a caregiver example. And that's perhaps where the connection in my train of thought came from when I was thinking about it the other day and trying to parse out the fact that it's a good thing to have grave respect for what we may encounter as a nurse, but how do we keep that from becoming a paralyzing fear? Anywho, I'm glad you liked it. It makes me feel all warm and squishy :cat: