Listen, friends, to some fatherly advice; sit up & take notice so you'll know how to live. I'm giving you good counsel; don't let it go in one ear and out the other.
Mom used to use this phrase quite often when she'd remind me of the importance of "paying attention". She'd remind me that what I was hearing should not "go in one ear and out the other" because she hoped I'd embrace what she advised. Wisdom comes through a process of learning and good judgment is something that must be developed. We'd like both to be "instant", but they only come in the process of time. They are a result of exposure to learning opportunities and time investment.
Ever see someone limping around after they have done some type of activity that they are not "used to doing"? It is like when I spend a day out in the garden, then feel it in every bone and muscle the next day. I try to bound out of bed, but instead of "bounding" I find myself creeping slowly to an erect position, regretting each movement because of the pain. Why do I feel the pain? Simply because I don't use those muscles often enough!
The same is true in the development of wisdom and good judgment - they are spiritual, emotional, and intellectual muscles that must be used over and over again to not get "flabby" and out of shape. We can lose what we don't use. This chapter reminds us to guard our heart above all else - because it affects every choice we make. Our emotions affect our choices - so we must be on top of our emotions. Our intellect gives us the basis for choice - we choose what we believe will make the most sense. Our spirit guides our choice - acting as a governor over choice when neither intellectual insight not emotional pull can be trusted. If not maintained, these "muscles" of wisdom and good judgment will cause us to live a pretty "halting" walk.
Later in this chapter, Solomon shares two truths that we need to consider: 1) There is no sense in living in the past; and 2) There are more than ample opportunities that present themselves as distracting forces in our lives. First, the past is just that - it is not the present. Too many times, we attempt to revisit the past, finding nothing more than disappointment in the process. The past is simply not what we are to be focusing on - it is the present that has the power to affect our wisdom and good judgment the most. The past served a purpose - learn from it and then move on. Don't dwell on it; it will hold you back if you do. Second, it is easy to get side-tracked. There are more than ample warnings in scripture about focus - that which is repeated is something that we had better take notice of.
We can be assured of this one fact: God knows our heart very well. When he speaks words of wisdom and works on developing good judgment within us, he is doing so with the knowledge of how our heart works (what it responds to, what moves it the most). His call to us is this: "Don't let it go in one ear, and out the other!"