Experience is the only source of knowledge

FAITH & REFLECTION -- Two friends watching the eleven o'clock news observed a man threatening to jump from the 20th floor...

FAITH & REFLECTION — Two friends watching the eleven o’clock news observed a man threatening to jump from the 20th floor of a high-rise building. One turned to the other and said, “I’ll bet you $10 he won’t jump.”

“It’s a bet,” replied his friend. A few minutes later, the man on the ledge jumped and the loser produced a $10 bill. “I can’t take your money,” his friend responded. “I saw him jump earlier on the six-o’clock news.”

“Me, too,” said the other man. “But I didn’t think he’d do it again!”

We laugh at the absurdity of the fictitious account, but the story suggests that experience, the sum of all that we hear, see, experience and encounter, should produce practical learning and result in wise decisions. Albert Einstein, elaborating on the importance of experience said, “The only source of knowledge is experience.” Or, as someone else said, “experience is knowing a lot of things you shouldn’t do again.” Experience is a teacher, but a rather tough one. It typically gives the test first and the lesson afterwards.

Starting out in life, experience can be the Catch 22, or conundrum of the job market. Employers are looking for someone with experience, but one must obtain the job to get it. Years later, with some experience to our account, we begin to enjoy its benefits and even receive the occasional compliment for our accrued achievements. It is then that we typically realize that obtaining significant experience required the expenditure of substantial time. Some find it depressing to think that they have achieved full proficiency in their occupation, just in time for retirement. They can identify with the ancient proverb which says, “experience is a comb that time presents to us when we are bald.”

God can use experience in our lives. David, famous for his victory over the giant Goliath (read 1 Samuel 17 for the full account) exemplifies this. David’s willingness was met with doubt from his own leaders and later, derision from the mighty Goliath. David however, simply explained that he had experienced God’s protection and power as a shepherd guarding the sheep. God had delivered Him from a lion and a bear. David was convinced, based upon God’s help in these previous incidents, that Goliath would be vanquished as well. Building upon past experience and armed with his faith, David went forth “in the name of God” and Goliath came down.

The apostle Paul wrote, “…tribulation results in patience; 4 patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5 and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts…” (Romans 5:3). Apparently, experience is one of the basic stepping stones in the Christian journey. God in fact, can use our past experience for present success.