Last week, we continued exploring the four essential archetypes that inspired my foundation: Mother, lover, warrior, and sage. Today, let's discuss the Sage archetype.
When you hear the word “sage,” you might think first about the fragrant herb that’s a traditional part of the seasoning we enjoy for Thanksgiving dinners. Sage has one of the longest histories of any culinary or medicinal herb, and was used thousands of years ago in ancient Egyptian kitchens!
But today, I want to focus on the other definition. The word sage also means “a profoundly wise person,” referring to someone who is wise through reflection and experience. When you give someone “sage advice,” you give them sound advice gained through your life reflections and experiences. Wisdom is something that we often confuse with intelligence. Both have to do with deep knowledge, but while intelligence frequently stems from study, wisdom can flow from sources other than books. In fact, it often does.
Having a sage within you isn’t defined by book learning. You don’t need any academic degrees to be a sage. And although we often associate wisdom with decades of life experience, having a sage within you isn’t limited by age. You don’t have to be old to be a sage.
In fact, one of the wisest women alive is remarkably young: Malala Yousafzai is the youngest person to win a Nobel Prize. In 2009—when she was just 11 years old—Malala wrote a blog post about living as a girl under Taliban occupation. She wrote passionately about her own desire to go to school, and how important she felt it was for all young girls in Pakistan to have the chance to learn. In 2012, a Taliban gunman shot Yousafzai as she rode home on a bus after taking an academic exam. She was punished for wanting girls to have access to education, targeted for her beliefs. Malala was only a teenager, but she listened to the sage within herself and spoke with courage about the importance of education for girls.
Not all sages are battling for equal rights or embroiled in politics. Think of Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote so eloquently about her emotional explorations in her book Eat, Pray, Love. Her willingness to share her personal journey inspired untold numbers of readers to make positive changes in their own lives. Think of Rachel Carson, whose writings were instrumental in the birth of American environmentalism. Think of Harper's Bazaar editor Diana Vreeland who forced women to think differently about fashion, and renowned chef Julia Child who forced women to think differently about cooking. Think of Oprah Winfrey, who began her journey as a journalist and ended it by positively impacting millions of women with her insights, kindness, and generosity.
All are sages in their own ways.
Sages possess wisdom in many different areas and express that wisdom in many different ways. But they are all brave, and they are all driven, and they are all eager to continue learning. About themselves and about their worlds.
So, how can you get in touch with the sage within yourself? How can you tap into her energy and use it to talk about the things that are important to YOU? Where is YOUR platform? And when you find it, will you USE it? Accessing this wisdom and bravery within yourself has nothing to do with status or money or degrees or job titles or power. It is about self-reflection, dedication, and a thirst for knowledge.
In conducting interviews for my new book, Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife, I spoke with so many women who were thrust into overwhelming roles that made them feel anything but wise. But over the months and years, they found their inner sages emerging and guiding them. Many of the women I interviewed were still struggling to find their footing, but many more were grounded in hard-won wisdom gained through living the life of a wounded warrior's spouse. And the established sages I met were more than happy to reach out to the wives who still struggled. They were generous with their insights and eager to help their sisters comprehend and handle the complexities of their new roles.
And sometimes that's what it takes: An overwhelming new role or drastic life change that forces you to look inward. Sometimes the sage only emerges when you need her wisdom most.
But sometimes you can summon your sage just by focusing on your goals, your aspirations, the difference you want to make in the world. Or even the difference you want to make within yourself. As this new year unfolds, I hope you'll find a way to tap your inner sage and revel in her unparalleled wisdom.