"Take my advice; I'm not using it." I spoke the words in jest during a conversation with some friends who are trying to deal honestly with their issues. We had been talking about their situation which so far has eluded every attempt we've made to thread our way through the rubbled maze of shattered relationships, when they expressed their appreciation for my advice. "I just wish some of it actually worked," I replied, then gave them that little quote. It didn't apply to them, but unfortunately, it does apply to so many issues in life.
Often those most eager to dispense their opinion are as ignorant as any when it comes to dealing with life, which is why except for when I have let my guard down, I try to refrain from offering mine. I can't even remember how often in sessions of pastoral counseling I sat and listened, silently begging God to let me off the hook because I hadn't a clue as to where to go next. I can listen to people who can quote all sorts of statistics and cite all the experts to support their position, then can turn around and find just as many experts giving proof for the exact opposite side. As one wag once said, "There are lies, damned lies, and statistics."
I unapologetically plant my feet on the wisdom of the Scriptures which I believe are not only the Word of God, but also bear the additional weight of thousands of years of human experience. When Proverbs tells us to avoid bad company, to live with integrity, to keep oneself pure, and to fear God, its three thousand years of history bears more weight with me than the latest scientific study that purports to turn ancient wisdom on its head, declaring that we now have proof that the sages didn't know what they were talking about. When I'm thinking clearly, I use Jesus' method in counseling, asking more questions than I answer. Unless people are blowing smoke, trying to evade their own issues, they usually know the answer to their own questions. They just need someone to help them find the truth that God has placed within them, truth people often work hard to avoid.
I am grateful tonight for the invitations I've been given into people's lives, for those who were serious about dealing with life's issues, and even for those who were not. The latter helped me be a better counselor, revealing the tricks and red herrings people toss in our way, but ultimately training me in the art of listening. Now if our national politicians would be willing to learn listening skills...