A European perennial mint in the salvia family (Salvia officialis) with aromatic leaves. Or a person who is wise, prudent and offers good judgement. Their wisdom gained through experience and reflection. It’s the reflection that leads to wisdom. One can live a lifetime of experiences and be unwise. It is the time spent in reflection that cultivates wisdom. In Merriam-Webster, the definition of reflection is divided two ways: reflection as a briefly expressed opinion or reflection as a cause of shame.

That blind-sided me. Shame provokes or engenders reflection. There seems to be a few missing beads between shame and reflection. Like comparison and contrition. Shame is such a loaded word but it is the correct word. It is the progenitor of arriving at wisdom. Something happens. Something bad or wrong or unfortunate. Something that doesn’t go exactly as planned or hoped. And we take inventory. We ask, Why me? Why didn’t I get what I wanted or end up where I planned? How did I get here? What did I do wrong?

And then the recounting begins. We take inventory. We must admit that we didn’t plan properly. We didn’t anticipate contingencies. We were short-sighted or lacked endurance. We were overly optimistic or premature. Maybe we lost our nerve, got scared, felt insecure and quit, abandoning the efforts. Maybe we changed our minds, realized that it wasn’t something we really wanted, ever wanted…or maybe no longer wanted. And we’ve squandered time and resources toward an endeavor for what?

Then we accept responsibility. Admit defeat. Acknowledge failures. While it is easy to shift and redirect blame onto others, the ultimate burden lies at our own feet. Displacing accountability onto other people or factors never leads to wisdom.

Wisdom requires shame and humility. And humility leads to contrition. And contrition leads to wisdom. It’s built into the declarative prayer at the beginning of a Catholic Mass.

I confess to almighty God and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done and in what I have failed to do, (Striking breast) through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault; therefore I ask blessed Mary ever-Virgin, all the Angels and Saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.

An ancient human act to stand shamed and contrite before our brethren and declare, definitely, that we’ve fucked up. Grievously fucked everything up and we are sorry. And then the faint, hinted kernel of hope….that we are redeemed, redeemable, worthy, have a shred of hope if the heavens shall pray for us. But the hope begins in our humility to ask for others to see us, see our wretchedness and pray for us.