Knowledge, Wisdom, Understanding, and Insight: What are the Differences?

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Knowledge, wisdom, and understanding are all great qualities that every human should possess to live a more noble life. We go to schools to gain knowledge, hold on to our conviction to achieve wisdom, and reflect on our own doings to achieve understanding. We might be familiar with the meaning of knowledge and wisdom, as we usually hear people talking about them. Some people are even using them interchangeably in their stories and discussions.

But what really is the difference between knowledge and wisdom?

What about the differences between knowledge, wisdom, and understanding?

One of the best ways to define and understand the meaning of something is to learn how to distinguish it from others. The more you recognize its unique distinctions, the more you understand its meaning.

To become knowledgeable, wise, and understanding, let’s analyze the meanings and differences of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. And to go higher, deeper, and further, let’s include insight, which might be their ultimate form.

So without further ado, let’s scrutinize them starting from their definitions.

On the meaning and definition

Knowledge is the collective information and facts acquired through education or experience. Knowledge is awareness. And yes, knowledge, itself, is power.

Knowledge, Wisdom, Understanding, and Insight
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Wisdom is the quality of having good judgment based on knowledge. It is popularly known as the ability to discern. If knowledge is power, wisdom is your choice to use or apply that power.

Understanding is the ability to understand one’s knowledge and choices. It is the realization of your decision. It is knowledge and wisdom put into action. If knowledge is power and wisdom is your choice to use that power, understanding is the execution of your choice to use that power. We develop understanding when we practice what we preach.

Insight is the capacity to gain an accurate and deep understanding of one’s knowledge and choices. It is the ability to make your knowledge, decision, and action into a habit or a lifestyle. If knowledge is power, wisdom is your choice to use that power, and understanding is the execution of your choice to use that power — then insight is the consistent execution of your choice to use that power. Insight is related to our future. If we have insight, or if we are constantly putting our knowledge, wisdom, and understanding of actions, we become more confident in our future.

On how to obtain them

To gain knowledge, one has to spend time and effort to know things by reading, listening, seeing, experiencing, studying, and getting familiar with certain things. Without interest or passion, one can hardly acquire knowledge.

To gain wisdom, one has to have knowledge first, and then use conviction to make a good judgment out of that knowledge. Without strength, courage, and confidence to make a decision, one cannot gain wisdom. No matter how intelligent or knowledgeable a person is, if he cannot distinguish what is right or wrong, he cannot be considered as a wise person.

To gain understanding, one has to have both knowledge and wisdom first, and then put them into action. He has to know, make a choice, and then practice that choice he has made. Without practicing and executing one’s knowledge and choice, one cannot truly understand or realize them. In order to have wisdom, you have to walk your talk. You have to do what is right, not just know it or judge it.

To gain insight, one has to have all of the above: knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. By persistently practicing and reflecting on them, one can gain insight and have more certainty of the future. Without patience, self-control, perseverance, and consistency, you can hardly develop insight.

In short, you have to know to have the knowledge, you have to make a knowledgeable choice to gain wisdom, you have to practice that choice to gain understanding, and finally, practice that choice consistently to gain insight.

On their applications in life

Knowledge can help you become more intelligent, earn higher school grades, have a more profitable business, have a healthier life, build lasting relationships, and survive most of life’s challenges. Knowledge is indeed a power that can make you stronger and more competitive in life.

Wisdom can help you choose to apply your intelligence, honor, profit, health, love, and strength the right way. In other words, wisdom is choosing to use your knowledge or power in a better way.

Knowledge, Wisdom, Understanding, and Insight
Photo by mohamed_hassan

Understanding can help you become a more practical person. Since it is the ability to put your knowledge and wisdom into actions, it will help you walk your talk and achieve actual results. Understanding will help you execute your choice to apply your intelligence, honor, profit, health, love, and strength the right way.

Insight can help you become a happier and more confident person. Since it is the ability to consistently practice your knowledge and wisdom, it will help you become more certain of the future. It will remove your fears and insecurities, thereby attaining real happiness and completeness in life. The insight will help you to persistently and constantly practice your choice to apply your intelligence, honor, profit, health, love, and strength the right way until you become more confident in the future.

Final thoughts
We need knowledge, wisdom, understanding, and insight to have a better life now and in the future. Insight seemingly appears to be the greatest among them, but the truth is, they all need each other. You cannot have wisdom without knowledge, you cannot have understood without wisdom, and you cannot have insight without understanding. They are steps or stages which we need to complete to truly achieve happiness and success in life. We have to recognize their differences not to separate them but to learn how to connect them and walk the right path towards life’s ultimate achievement.

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Victorino Q. Abrugar
Vic is the founder of InspiringTips.com. He regularly writes for the site and also serves as its digital marketing strategist. Vic likes to talk about true love, meaningful life, quantum physics, spiritual growth, and more.

42 thoughts on “Knowledge, Wisdom, Understanding, and Insight: What are the Differences?”

  1. Well, as for me, I think you have to understand something first before you can apply it; when you study a piece of info and you understand it, it becomes a knowledge that you have. A knowledge that’s properly and consistently applied becomes wisdom….

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  2. I’m sorry. You cannot define a word by using it in your definition. You used the word “understanding” in defining the word “understanding”.

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  3. The Sunday School lesson of 7th June, 2020 led me to finding meaning to the four powerful, related and interwoven words in the book of Proverb . Your explanation really loaded and equipped me for the teaching.

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  4. This is my humble response to Godswill. I am in total agreement with your point of view. However, I believe there is divine wisdom and worldly wisdom according to 1 Cor 1:17-31. I am also of the view that the wisdom of Solomon was extraordinary. Godly wisdom, therefore, could be attained by fearing God which is the foundation or starting point, and obeying and loving God as the means. In a nutshell, the process of acquiring wisdom both Godly and worldly could be what Abrugar has stipulated in his article. Yes the bible says we should ask, in faith of course, but faith without works is dead. Therefore, to gain divine wisdom, we must have knowledge of the scriptures first and the experiences of our walk with the Lord.

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  5. I’m in Awe! Thank you so very much! It’s still penetrating through my thoughts! It’s somewhat complicated but so much rewarding to know this!

    I’m so grateful that I came across this as I was searching the Internet.

    You are a Godly Hero 🙏

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  6. Honestly I do not believe that wisdom comes through knowledge etc. As that’ll contradict the very core teachings of the scripture! You can be so knowledgeable and yet lacks good judgement in some technical issues and that is where wisdom comes to play! E.g Solomon didn’t gain wisdom through education but through grace. It was given to him upon asking and desiring the same desperately. And it was examplified in his good judgments! “The bible even adviced that if anyone of you lacks wisdom let him ask of God and he’ll give to you”

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    • This is awesome. as a young bible scholar, I am studying Psalms and Wisdom Literature this semester. your article has helped me a lot to develop my end of semester paper, as well as enriched my spiritual life. Thank you and may God continue to bless and use you.

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    • Great teaching from Abrugar. May God continue to use you for His glory.
      I however do not agree that wisdom comes from knowledge. I believe that wisdom comes first then knowledge. We ask for wisdom from God first, then with wisdom one is able to discern what is good and what is bad and be able to select what knowledge to acquire, what knowledge to avoid or discard. Because you have wisdom first you are able to gain good knowledge through wise leaning and wise action. Then the application of that knowledge from learning and/ or experience with wisdom will lead to understanding. I believe understanding comes when I use my knowledge to gain insight into new situations and/ or into what happened in the past, to make sense of things. So, I believe the sequence should be wisdom, knowledge and understanding because knowledge without wisdom does not lead to understanding. I am open to different reasoning. That’s how we learn.
      Thank you.

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  7. Yah it’s powerful cause I was wondering what the wisest man Solomon said in proverbs 4:6-7 that get wisdom but with all thy getting, get understanding so meaning wisdom alone can not stand.

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  8. Knowledge and understanding are of the world. Insight is an enlightened from within, a source of holiness. This insight links with His by accepting Him in reality. From that fear of God wisdom is trancended to us from above to be more enlighten in Insight. This is what I believe, for Wisdom is not a product of the world.

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  9. I really appreciate this image, it’s makes me understand more ND more about where am going ND where am coming… Thanks much….

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  10. Thank God I learn so much informations regarding Knowledge, Wisdom and Understanding. May God bless my all dear in Christ.

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  11. I think the order is misunderstood in this article. Only after knowledge, understanding and insight comes wisdom. Wisdom is the highest point, it is knoweldge and understanding put into action. One can have knowledge and understanding without wisdom, but to gain wisdom, one has to have knowledge and understanding first.

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  12. I am currently doing a Precept study on Proverbs where wisdom, knowledge and understanding are used in the same/subsequent verses. It is confusing because the differences are not clear in my mind. Thank you for this article. It will be a tremendous help. Blessings on you and yours, Vic.

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  13. This comes across to me as a western perspective. How can Insight come after wisdom. For one to become wise they must first have insight, if they do not have insight then they cannot be wise. Knowledge on the other hand is not related to wisdom. Wisdom is achieved through the education of life in nature, where we live. Knowledge is external, wisdom is internal. One cannot achieve wisdom through knowledge and one cannot achieve knowledge through wisdom. Understanding is relative to the context of what it is you are dealing with. From my perspective real understanding is beyond our comprehension. Wisdom does not mean we understand, as understanding does not make us wise. Wisdom is more about accepting what we do not know as much as it is to recognize what we do know. Wisdom is the ability to accept and be part of what is, not to go in search of knowledge. Knowledge does not bring you truth because it is constantly changing and we do not know where or when it will reach the end of it’s journey, or if it ever will. This has been my perspective on these word’s for so long i cannot exactly recall. I do accept this may be an eastern perspective, and may not coincide with the dictionary meaning, but i do believe a lot of westerner’s see it this way also.

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    • Sounds to me as if you are saying that in order to see, one must have sight, but I tell you in order to see God, One must have Faith.

      Seeing is for those who see, as is hearing is for those who hear.

      Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.

      How is it that a blind man sees without the natural vision of his eye sight.

      How is it that in scripture even those who are not vision impaired do not see as others who witness the awe of God?

      How is it that an army can be on location and not be seen with the natural eye, but a request to God that he show his servant the host and suddenly before his eyes the Lord’s servant sees what was there all along.

      Read Hebrews 11 and witness for yourself those who did not see but took God at his word.

      Every nation is blessed because of Abraham. Have you ever seen him?

      I could go on and on with this, but instead I will give you this, and I pray you receive it in the spirit which it is given.

      “Believe”

      There were blind men who were healed by Christ, but I order for sight to take place in their eyes, it had to take place in their hearts first.

      We err because we know not the scripture, nor the power of God.

      This is why we study to show ourselves approved before God a workman unashamed at the rightly dividing of the truth.

      Did you know that the flock is small, which to me indicates that most of this most of this world is walking around with blinders on.

      Now Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of what is not seen, yet we believe.

      I have it on the greatest authority that from all four corners, including the west, God is going to collect his people.

      Now I believe that the scripture is good for instructing in righteousness, and that righteousness is the moral and just acts of God, that Holiness is purity and that truth is error free which is why it is the only way.

      I will leave you with this, if it does not glorify God or edify the Church don’t bring it into the house. What affects One, affects all.

      We do not wrestle against flesh and blood but wickedly dark principles that separates us from God’s love.

      Be at peace

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      • There is only one real way to obtain wisdom and it is to fear God.

        Remember how the donkey was being lashed but still would not do as it was being told. Then Speech was placed into its mouth and the owner realized and he became afraid. The donkey saw what the man didn’t and he was not about to tangle with God’s messenger.

        Suddenly the man who thought himself wise knew that this is where real wisdom begins because he said, “no matter what you want me to say, I can only say what the LORD desires me to say.” Wisdom.

        Remember when Isaiah thought Himself too dirty to speak, Isaiah was so fearful but a hot coal was used to purify him. Wisdom.

        Fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.

        You can be a donkey or a demon but you believe and tremble at the name Jesus. Wisdom.

        We are made in God’s image, this means sound mind, loving, self control and having power. What we reflect is God’s Wisdom.

        If you are living a life that is ungodly and you cry out to God because everything is going against you, if you confess with your mouth
        on bended knee, that Jesus is the Christ, who’d died and now lives and is seated at the right hand of God, and you believe and ask that he be your LORD and Savior, this is Wisdom, because you have shown that your soul fears He that has the power to destroy you body and soul.

        Don’t make it so hard that people shy away because the tone of your words deter the least of the least and the worst of the worst to run from God, rather than turn to Him.

        We are here to touch as many souls with the Word of God that all may exalt Him because they know Him to be who He says that He is. The Self Existent One.
        No beginning, no ending.
        We want to put the angels in Heaven in tears from our having saved souls. Being imperfect souls, the more we do right the more we are in line with the good and perfect will of God. We are fishers of men, when you get a sinner that no one would have guessed he’d be in search of God and he slips from the hook, it like the one that got away. You may never get him back.

        We will never obtain the level of God’s thoughts or ways, but as his children, we proclaim Him LORD of all.

        Suffer the little children. Come just as they are. In God’s eyes we are all the same. It’s only men who judge improperly, because judgment isn’t given to men.

        John the The Baptist in his day was the worst in the eyes of so called men, but in the eyes of Christ he was the best amongst men born of women.

        So many are falling away from the faith, we must renew our efforts to lead and feed the LORD’s sheep.

        The most simplest yet wisest thing a soul can do is to fear his Creator. This is a beginning between Him and them. A reverence of awe!

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  14. Thanks for this wonderful article on Knowledge, wisdom and understanding. I gained that you can’t have any of these three without involvement- Paying full attention to learn by being present spirit, soul and body

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  15. In my 20’s, I heard my mother explain the difference between knowledge and wisdom almost exactly like you have. She said it was impossible to be wise without first gaining knowledge. Understanding and Insight she dId not cover, at least not to my ears. She would have though if she had lived longer to see when I needed to hear these last 2 aged values. She trusted God to bring these things to my attention when it was time. And..He did. Rarely do I learn such from another. I am very careful in that so I use the Bible and a dictionary mostly, Guided by the Holy Spirit, I do find times when I must learn from another. Thank you for using your time to disciple others and to honor Him. Treasures in your box Gal! See you then.

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    • Yes, I agree. Your words have helped me understand the differences and connectivity of these four life goals!

      Thank you.

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  16. I ‘truly’ believe that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Saviour, the only path to salvation is through him. It is my opinion that the Catholic church is most likely the best path to come to a hope of achieving this salvation (relative not absolute statement). I say this primarily because of the long history and tradition of the church because of its great store of knowledge wisdom and statements of understanding of the face of God. To ‘turn away’ from God or to not wish to look away from the ‘face’ of Go sis to sin, its is not God which sins, it is us! We choose to sin and turn away from God, by turning away from God we do not want to be in his presence.

    To understand God one must first put faith in the ‘Church’, to put faith in the church is to say one wishes to trust in something without fully knowing or understanding it i.e. you want to learn! If you wish to learn about God then you must first trust, then gain knowledge then hopefully come to gain Wisdom and an some share in the Understanding God.

    To understand God is to share in his very being or to put it an other way, to be in presence – it is a generous Gift. To understand God is to understand the immensity of his being, a being who is so powerful that he can create our very existence.

    God can only grant you as much of ‘his time’ as you wish, free will. He is not a paymaster we work for, if we do not spent time with him he will punish us – like a strict teacher. He is the opposite, the more time we choose the spend the more we will master him.

    I highly recommend Herbert McCabe if you have any interest in understanding the Catholic Faith.

    Have a good day and God bless.
    Kind Regards,
    Ian

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  17. Thanks a lot for giving such a great information on knowledge, wisdom, understanding and insight, I’m blessed by this because now I can read Bible by knowledge to get wisdom and understand the Word of God for my insight.

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  18. Am really bless for this article, it was the book of proverbs that brought me to searching for the meaning of wisdom, understanding and knowledge.

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  19. I have found it difficult to understand these four words. But now, by reading your commentary, values have been added to my knowledge. Thank you.

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  20. I am so much enlighten by your article. I was reading the Book of Proverbs and the question “what is wisdom” dropped. While searching I came across this article. God richly bless you!

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  21. This morning I was contempleting proverbs 4:18 “perfect day”. Your commentary on wisdom, understanding and insight added much to my meditations. Grace and peace, Laun Storm

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