“NOW, what do I do?” is every parent’s nightmare question that is a living reality. I’m sure if I had a nickel for everytime I asked that while raising my children, I’d be a trizillionaire (or whatever word works for being mega-rich because as a parent, I often felt clueless).
Those who either heard or saw my confusion and consternation loved to give unasked-for advice. Their advice usually started with something like, “when that happened to me….”, as if they knew all about my life because they had already lived it. OR, “what I did that worked..”, as if they had the magic answer to any parenting situation, or my favorite, “what you should do…”, which means there is a universal code of parenting that I should know and must obey if I want to raise children that aren’t enemy #1 to society as adults.
Most of the time, unasked-for advice works the same as asked-for advice; the key isn’t the advice, it’s the person who is listening to the advice. I was the one who made the difference. There were times I learned from advice, and times I didn’t. There were a few significant points of consideration that all had to work together in order for me to be counted among those “who have ears to hear”.
Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived (1 Kings 4:30), has some wise words of advice about advice. So – he’s our go-to guy on this matter and here are 3 things he has to say and my tidbits of commentary to enliven them for you.
Resolution to Receive
Listen to and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. (Prov. 19:20, NIV). The New Living Translation puts it this way, “Get all the advice and instruction you can, so you will be wise the rest of your life.” Seeking wisdom from a variety of sources is the path to wisdom. How can I do this?
- Keeping a look out for those persons God puts in my path, so I can ask and listen to their opinions is a consistent and intentional goal.
- Seeking advice which leads to wisdom is my responsibility (it isn’t someone else’s job to make me see reason – hopefully).
- Great advice won’t just drop in my lap; I need to seek it out.
- Living in our virtual realities with Alexa or Siri as my all-wise advice givers isn’t going to cut it. Some good ideas and information from these techno wizards is expected, but no matter what algorithm Facebook comes up with, I can’t replace advice from people I respect, who love me, and will take time investing in me personally. I am just one in many billion to Google, Alexa, or Siri but to the people around me, I am one in a million that they actually care about. Who better to seek advice from than those who know and love me best?
Facing Your Fears
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel. Prov. 12:15, NIV) The Contemporary English Version says, “Fools think they know what is best, but a sensible person listens to advice.” Even though most of us would like to see ourselves as teachable and open to the opinions of others, what would stop us from listening to advice? Our fears – we need to face them and then, face them down.
- “I’m afraid of what you would think of me if I ask for help.” This person believes asking for help is a weakness, not a strength. The opinions of others are more important than the opinion they have of themselves. This needs to change.
- “I have to pretend to know what I’m doing so you’ll still believe in me; I’m afraid if I don’t act like I have it all together, you won’t respect me.” This person believes that the only reason someone respects them is because they can do something well without anyone else’s input. This takes independence way too far and actually weakens the position of the person.
- “I’m afraid you won’t like me if I ask for help; I’m sure I’m a bother.” This person believes that if asked, others believe that giving help is a pain, not a privilege. This is actually not the case. Most people love being a help when they can be. Bonus verse: Oil and perfume make the heart glad, So a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend. (Prov. 27:9, NIV) Part of friendship is being there for one another; don’t push your friends away when you need advice, draw them closer.
Self-Protection is really Self-defeat
Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory. (Prov. 11:14, NIV) Trying to live a godly life in which we flourish daily is tough. How does advice get me what I need and what I want out of life?
- Be Open and Open-Minded. Ditch the self-protection and be vulnerable in sharing what is really going on in your life. Tell the truth to the counselors you trust and seek out their honest opinion.
- Be a Systematic Theologian. Look at the WHOLE of Scripture and how it puts together a bigger picture of our life and who God is in it. An “abundance of counselors” would indicate that we shouldn’t just take one verse and run with it; instead, take the time to study a topic or idea thoroughly from a full-biblical perspective to make sure it is well-informed.
- Be Patient. Whatever goal we have set for ourselves, we need to remember that it may take a while to get there. Getting advice from a number of different counselors takes time and patience in order to persevere to the right answer.
Dear Reader, “Once a parent, always a parent!” And no matter how old my kids get or how long I am at this parenting-thing, I still need encouragement and advice. If you will take one piece of advice from me, face your fears, defeat your self-protection and seek advice from an abundance of counselors you trust and who want to invest in you personally so you can receive their advice and flourish in the life God has given you. Seek wisdom and you will find it.
Blessings to you – and thanks for taking the time to read my advice…on advice. Fondly yours always – Elizabeth