Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Shape or Be Shaped, What’s YOUR Approach?

To everything there is a season, and sometimes you must do a bit of thoughtful shaping of your life.  What is much harder, due to the requirement of having to submit to another, is allowing yourself to be shaped.  I’m almost certain that the biggest reason we do not listen to other people’s advice is because we know that people are not perfect.  They can hurt us deliberately or even by accident.  It is possible for them to make mistakes even if their intentions are pure.  At the end of the day, it feels more comfortable, or safer, for us to do what we think is right.  At least then, if things go wrong, we can’t ruin our relationships with those who gave us faulty advice!  Right?  Wrong!

I want to offer a couple of thoughts on taking advice from others and taking risks.  I also want to share a way of allowing yourself and your life to be shaped by someone else, so that the only degree to which you will get hurt, is the degree to which you stuff things up yourself.

Advice on taking advice
If you are the sort of person who re-interprets advice according to what advice YOU would offer, then you will never get any benefit from the advice given.  Instead, you will merely alienate the advice-giver by showing them that you are not really listening to them.  This becomes a bigger problem when their re-interpreted advice does not work and you blame them for failure instead of blaming yourself.

You can also reduce your ability to have close friends if you will not allow them into your life enough that they can offer you advice that you will reasonably consider.  Imagine if you spent years and years giving a piece of advice to someone you loved, perhaps on relationships and how to recognise the wrong guy, but they never took your advice and continued to hurt themselves with bad relationships.  Surely it would hurt you to see them hurting themselves in this way when all it would take is for them to take a look at their history and see that they are not improving anything in their life in this area.  Maybe then they will be more likely to listen to you.

To be good at taking advice you need to be able to trust someone else.  

To be good at taking advice you need to be prepared to take a risk, perhaps even risk getting hurt.  The size of the risk will depend on how much hurt you think you can handle.  If you are resilient then you will be able to take bigger risks.

To be good at taking advice you need to be able to recognise your own limitations in understanding, and be able to accept that you will not always know what to do.

To be good at taking advice you need to be able to recognise when others can do better at what you are looking to take advice on.  This means you will have to be able to admit to yourself that someone else knows better than YOU.  This can be very, very hard sometimes, but gets easier with practice.

To be good at taking advice you need to have a good imagination to be able to put the advice into practice in your mind and think through what will happen if you follow it.  This means that you can better choose which piece of advice to follow if you have to choose between advices, and it will mean that you are better able to predict the risk of hurt in following the advice, better informing your defenses against bad advice.

To be good at taking advice you need to be able to understand that the best advice will not always be the easiest path.  Sometimes the best advice will be uncomfortable because it will force you to face your weakness and struggle through to overcoming it.

A final word in this section.  You should feel more comfortable taking a risk with someone closer to you a lot more than others.  This is because they will be more likely to have considered the risks to you themselves.  If they love you, they will not want to see you hurt and will only offer the best advice as they see it.  Someone close will not willingly give you bad or hasty advice.

The best place to get advice
The best place to get advice would be from someone who knows you perfectly.  They love you unconditionally, they know just how much hurt you can handle when they give advice you won’t like, and they will always give the absolute best advice for any situation.  The perfect advice comes from the perfect advice giver and is only limited by your ability to take their advice properly.

So where does this perfect advice come from?  If you know me, you will be aware that I only know of one perfect source of anything.  That perfect source of advice is God.  He has given us His Word (The Bible) as a source of perfect advice, dealing with every aspect of life.  All you have to do is look and listen with an open mind and an open heart.

God, in the bible, deals with topics such as:
Death, romance, love, relationships with family, law, justice, food, drink, alcohol, marriage, sex, parenting, what happens when you die, work, money, and much much more.

Unfortunately, people who are not good at taking advice will often read some instruction that God has given and then put their own spin on it, often totally countering the intention of the word.  That’s why there are so many ministries out there that place an unhealthy spin on giving to the church.  That’s also why there are groups that claim that you have to be a member of their church to be a true Christian.  

When dealing with advice from God, we have to take the time to really try and understand what He meant by what He said.  It is worth sitting and turning a verse of the bible over in your mind, reading and re-reading it, to work out just what it is trying to get across.  Sometimes the process is instant, but other times it may take years for the full meaning to work itself out in your mind.  That is the nature of good and perfect advice.  It comes to you at just the right time, when you need it the best.  Not necessarily when you think you need it the most.

To finish, I would like to ask you a couple of questions:
Can you trust the people closest to you, enough to take advice from them?  Do you trust that a perfect being (God) can give you the perfect advice, even if it doesn’t seem perfect to you?  I encourage you to have a browse through the bible and see what advice you can find to help whatever your situation is at the moment.  Perhaps you could even type in the topic you want advice on here at biblegateway.com

May all of the best advice come your way, and may you take it with wisdom and trust in the perfect advice giver!