A few thoughts about advice

So it’s the close of the spring semester for me. I’m not entirely sure where the time went – especially the month of April! I’ve finished up my Live Lightly challenge, and managed to wipe out half of my closet in the process of removing and rearranging my clothes. It hasn’t been very easy – in fact, at times it’s been downright drudgery. I’m so glad the task of cleaning out my closets is now behind me!

I’ve found that I have pretty deep emotional attachments to a lot of my clothes. I remember buying certain things, or wearing them to particular occasions. {Remember my Tennessee Yellow I told you about a couple of weeks or so ago?} But, unlike that sweatshirt, some things I just won’t get rid of.

Clothes aren’t the only things on my mind, however. I’m thinking a lot about giving and getting advice.

I have a few very dear friends, both old and new, who have been soliciting pretty personal advice lately. I’ve actually been quite humbled by the advice I’ve been asked to give. Marriage. Family. Work. Dating. Relationships. It always seems to boil down to the R-word, doesn’t it? {Even parenting… what the heck do I know about parenting…!}

Maybe since I’ve started working on my Master’s degree in Listening {ok, it’s really called Counseling}, it’s as if I wear a huge neon light blaring across my forehead blinking, “ask me!” I don’t consider myself worthy to offer major life perspective to many people, but nonetheless am glad to have a chance to shine some much needed light in some dark situations as I’m asked to offer my perspective.

Giving advice is very much offering my “view.” The word advice comes from the Old French phrase a vis which is a derivative of the phrase ce m’est a vis, meaning “it seems to me that,” or “in my view.” The actual root phrase is the Latin videre which means “to see.”

So as I’ve spent the past month cleaning out my closets, thinning my stash and donating clothes, I have been pondering advice. I’ve found the two concepts to be quite similar, actually.

How many items of clothing do I own that I feel a sense of obligation to, even if they no longer help me look great? What things in my closet am I just holding onto, for memory’s sake? How much longer do I need to hold onto my gorgeous college graduation dress that is four sizes bigger than I am now? Clearly this dress will never look as flattering on me again. That ratty Penn State sweatshirt laden with huge holes and even bigger memories of home games at Beaver Stadium? I will probably never get rid of these clothes, yet they are also not the ones I reach for when I really need to look my best.

And just like these clothes: How often do I so naturally turn to those “comfy” few when it comes time to delve into my problems, even though their advice might actually prevent me from truly being at best? When I need advice, am I reaching for what’s nostalgic and cozy, or the timeless classics in my life that help me truly be my best self?

How about when I’m offering advice? Am I simply soothing my friends and allowing myself to be that comfy pair of high school track sweatpants for them, or am I truly helping them be their best – which might mean telling them the hard truths of what they need to hear? Am I aiming to be a timeless classic to my circle of friends?

What is it about someone that qualifies them as “advice-worthy?” When I think about my own life, I have a just a few close confidants I turn to for their time-tested wisdom. I’m not saying my friendships have worn out like a pair of sweatpants -please know this. I have lots of friends that I love very dearly, and I don’t plan on thinning my stash of friends any time soon! I just don’t tend to ask all my friends for advice; and I honestly challenge that thought. Because I don’t believe friendship in and of itself is what makes someone “advice-worthy.” As I thought about the idea of wise counsel, I settled on this straightforward litmus test for soliciting advice:

  • Does the person live a life that I desire to emulate? In other words, I’m a Christian. That means I desire to live and be like Jesus Christ. Does the person I’m asking for advice live a life that reflects Christ with the same (or even more) intensity? Why would I ask for advice from someone who wants to live less like Christ than I do myself? Their advice will likely not bring me closer to Jesus, and therefore, not help me be my “best” self.
  • Does the person’s advice measure up to the standards I live by? Sure I can look in the back of my Bible or even google the topic in a commentary, but spending time to truly know God’s Word is the best way to be prepared to actually determine if it measures up to His standard, which is my standard. If someone offers me advice or a suggestion that contradicts what the Bible says, then clearly this is not advice that will help me be my “best” self. Secondly, if I’ve answered ‘yes’ to the first question, it should likely pass this second question with flying colors.

So there you have it – some thoughts on seeking and offering advice. Do you ever consider who you seek advice from or who seeks it from you? Are you that comfy pair of tattered sweats or are you a timeless, trusted staple in someone’s wardrobe? Is it time to give your advice closet a good solid look-through?

Who do you turn to for advice? For some thoughts on wisdom and advice from the ancients, check out the middle chunk of the book of Proverbs {which has 31 chapters}.

Proverbs 15:14 – The discerning heart seeks knowledge, but the mouth of a fool feeds on folly.

Proverbs 16:22 – Understanding is a fountain of life to those who have it, but folly brings punishment to fools.




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