By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection . . . second, by imitation . . . and third, by experience. (Confucius)

Confucius ranks them in order of value. The first, he says, is noblest”; the second is easiest”; and the third “the bitterest.” Experience, as someone has said, may be “the best teacher,” but it can be very hard to bear. Imitation has value, too, but true wisdom will result in noble benefit and advancement as a result of serious, purposeful thinking.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. (Psalm 139:23)