When I was growing up, I often felt stupid, but I generally got straight A’s in school. I would get frustrated and tongue-tied trying to express important concepts about life, but I always got responses of positive amazement at my writing of research papers, poems, or essays. I was overwhelmed by abstract math questions on tests, but could problem solve sewing projects intuitively.
I have never taken a specific IQ test, though it was a rare thing that I wasn’t a top scorer in academic venues. I can say that many times I at least knew the material well enough to parrot back, but sometimes I just used good test-taking skills. I can still recall a couple of major tests in college wherein I still have no idea what the right answers were. The class lectures were poorly presented and the test questions were ambiguous to bizarre. I got very high scores anyway.
There is some indication that IQ tests are more a measure of cultural awareness and language ability. And, of course, test-taking skills. As I observe conversations around me, I see some people equate intelligence with ‘good’ communication skills. Other people will only call someone intelligent if they agree with them.
Somewhere along the line, I became aware that so-called intelligence and ability to problem solve are strongly impacted by
- interest level and,
(Forgive me. Using all the “I’s” was just fun and, I think, useful!)
A person has to have enough information to be able to even know what the options are. For instance, for many years, being taught in
public government schools, the only information I had about history and politics was pro-government. To my credit, I frequently thought the presentation was lacking. It just didn’t quite come together in a way I was comfortable with. However, since I had no other input and it hadn’t occurred to me to look beyond my “education” yet, I often thought I was just stupid and couldn’t grasp all the issues the way the revered leaders politicians could.
There was one good side effect to this. I mostly kept quiet and observed. Over time, and by the grace of God, I began to get other information that exposed the manipulated education. With core principles to guide me, I got more adept and sifting information into good versus bad and important versus non-important. You can have solid core principles, but have trouble applying them to life when your information is bad.
My understanding of politics may have increased faster if I had been interested. But even when I understood next to nothing, it all seemed distorted. Now that I know and understand more, I see why it really is a distortion of life and individual liberty. I’m not anymore interested in all the political charades, but I am interested in individual sovereignty and how politics hinders that.
As I work on integration of my knowledge with my principles, I find two things are key. One is to listen to various perspectives. The second is to not get boxed in by other people’s assumptions, biases, or arrogance. If I can be comfortable letting my conclusions be challenged, I learn either where I am wrong or why I can continue to confidently hold a position.
Some people think they are being intelligent when all they are doing is finding dubious so-called scientific studies to back up their already decided upon decision. I don’t want to be like that. Other people think they are smart because they know all the latest
current events and news gossip and propaganda. Experience has taught me to be skeptical about the sources and motives of such stories. And then there are people who are happy to make you feel unintelligent because they know certain facts that you don’t. Besides it being a rare thing that everyone knows all the same facts, the real trick is knowing what to do with the information. Listing facts never made anyone smart.
While I would not go so far as to say that intelligence is completely dependent on integrity (another “I” word!), I do think there is reason to believe that intelligence only reaches maximum capability when honesty, truth, and goodness are integrated with it. I admit this is based on my world-view, but I also have not met anyone who doesn’t have some sort of moral absolutes that guide their thinking. If you believe in a right or best way of doing things, you have to believe that true intelligence is bound up with goodness.
So, do I think I am intelligent now? That seems like asking someone if they are humble. I would rather say that I try to be more careful and thorough about my thinking, always striving to learn. I think being honest about my limitations, but not discouraged by them is the most intelligent response I can have to issues or challenges. I think that striving for a balance of confidence in my principles, but humility in the application thereof is crucial for my own personal development and my relationships with others.
When I choose people to trust and be friends with, I rate character and integrity much higher than intelligence. Not that I’m going around evaluating everyone’s intelligence, since I think that would be presumptuous and ridiculous for me to try. What I do evaluate is people’s honesty and humility. If someone has those traits, they are more likely to make intelligent choices. In the final analysis, the intelligence that counts is that which leads to prosperity of relationships and responsibility. And you don’t have to be a rocket scientist for that.