Wisdom: Heeding Advice

As I continue to read through the Proverbs, I have been struck by the repeated emphasis they give on the wise being willing to listen to and heed the advice of others. For instance, as I shared yesterday, the second clause of 11:14 is “in an abundance of counselors there is safety,” and the second clause of 13:10 declares “wisdom is with those who take advice.”

As I ponder this, I wonder about my willingness to heed the advice of others. I believe that I tend to seek and listen to advice fairly well. Although there are times when I genuinely champion for a particular viewpoint or outcome against others’ thoughts or advice, in such instances I usually have experienced and/or learned much of a particular issue to persuade me in that direction; and such instances tend to be the exception, not the rule.

I actually often seek out others’ advice. I have made a habit of meeting with other, more experienced clergy; I regularly meet with my superintendent or others who work with our Conference leadership; and I regularly consult with my learned and wise wife. (Hm. Never noticed how close “wise” and “wife” were before. Might be something to that.)

However, when it comes to listening to others, I often draw from my experience in CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) at a hospital in Champaign-Urbana, Illinois. The former-nun who led the chaplaincy program – she had the heart of a saint and the mouth of a sailor – related to us how we ust deal with the critiques others throw at you (and I think it translates somewhat to listening to advice). We need to have three IN boxes on our mental desk, and we file the critiques appropriately as they come in to one of the three: Bullshit, True, Maybe.

The first box is for those critiques or comments that we automatically know are completely untrue; statements and criticisms leveled to hurt or offend, or rising from malevolent perspectives, or simply mind-boggingly wrong. The second box is for those statements that we know, automatically, to be true. This does not mean we necessarily like these statements – hearing a hard truth about yourself is never easy – but we know they are true, or rise from something that is true.

The third IN box should be the largest. This is the one where we have to take time to reflect on what has been said and shared, to discern what truth there might be in the critique or comment.

In essence, I think this is a lot like seeking and heeding advice. There is much we need to reflect on when we invite the wisdom of another. We might be able to automatically dismiss or support some of what we hear – and we generally are quick to hear and support anything that aligns with our preconceived ideas – but if we are truly seeking advice, we will find that our Maybe IN Box has much more in it than the others.

What about you? How well do you seek and heed the advice of others?

Some proverbs for the day:

From the fruit of the mouth one is filled with good things,
and manual labor has its reward. (12:14)

Fools think their own way is right,
but the wise listen to advice. (12:15)

In the path of righteousness there is life,
in walking its path there is no death. (12:28)

Those who despise the word will bring destruction on themselves,
but those who respect the commandment will be rewarded. (13:13)

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise,
but the companion of fools suffers harm. (13:20)

In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence,
and one’s children will have a refuge. (14:26)

Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding,
but one who has a hasty temper exalts folly. (14:29)

A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger. (15:1)

The mind of the righteous ponders how to answer,
but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil. (15:28)

The ear that heeds wholesome admonition will lodge among the wise. (15:31)

The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom,
and humility goes before honor. (15:33)

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