Let’s say someone asks for your opinion. You offer your advice, and yet your friend decides to not use your advice and to go another direction. How do you feel? Are you hurt? Are you fine with her decision? If you find that you are hurt, your advice was probably more like an order.
One of my past ministries (okay, it was a job, but I like it to be considered a ministry because I discerned for it) was being the administrative assistant to my Parish priest. As I sat through financial meetings, I found that because I did the book keeping the priest would ask my opinion on financial issues that the church was facing. When I offered my opinion, I expected that he would not only listen, but follow my advice (I guess because I thought my opinion was filled with wisdom). I mean, why would you not listen to the person who is dealing with the books every day? Right? Wrong. Most of the time, the priest did the exact opposite of my advice. I have to admit, it was a little hurtful. I mean, why did he hire me to do this job, if he was just going to make decisions on his own? What I found out after A LOT of prayer was that priests make decisions based upon advice from many people, not just one. There were sides of the story that I didn’t recognize, but others did. There was an entire Parish to consider, not just one person. He examined all sides of the issue and I was just one teeny tiny part of that. So, it wasn’t that he was pushing my advice aside and tagging it as “useless.” Quite the opposite, I gave my knowledge based on my experience, but not necessarily the best option. It took me quite a while to learn this lesson. Like I said, there was a lot of praying going on in my life. I had to ask God to push my pride aside so I could see what was going on that I had closed my heart to.
Proverbs 2:1-2 My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding
When I start feeling like I have the best and only answer to a problem; that was my cue that God was not first in my life. Even though I may be gifted with knowledge that certainly does not give me the ability to use wisdom. Wisdom is a balance of knowledge and faith in God. I must have both in order to truly have wisdom.
Proverbs 2:6, 9-10 For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
When I allow God to work on my heart and I use the knowledge that I have gained while living here on earth, I find my decisions are solid. When I use only the knowledge, I find that life becomes a little more difficult. I found myself falling into this trap last week when I was “advising” my daughter to practice her spelling words. It was a difficult list and I knew she was going to need a little extra practice this week. So, I advised her that we should probably go through those words. Her reply was usually, “In a minute.” I guess “in a minute” to a seven year old means –in two days. I thought about pushing her which I have done in the past, but then I started to think about how I had planned to give her more responsibility. She had been very forgetful the last couple of months (forgetting her coat, her lunch, her homework). Because of this forgetfulness she would become angry with me that “I forgot” these things. I realized that I was babying her. She, after all, is my last child. I love her dearly. We all do. She has some behavioral issues that we all have learned to skirt around and, it was time to tackle those issues head on. We had made some pretty good progress in the last year, but I was definitely shying away from the responsibility issues. So last week, it took everything I had, but I let the spelling slide. I put it in her hands. I gently reminded her that spelling was important. She may not slide by this week with a 100% because the words were difficult. By Wednesday, she decided to start practicing. She immediately realized that the words were harder than usual. She became frustrated, but she did practice again on Thursday. She ended up missing two words that week, but she took the responsibility for it and owned up to her mistake.
What does this all have to do with my topic? Well, usually my knowledge would tell me that I MUST make her practice spelling. My knowledge would say that a seven year old is not responsible enough to do her work on her own. My knowledge would say that I would be a “bad mom” if I don’t ensure my kids success. Wisdom stopped this knowledge dead in its tracks. Wisdom told me that she was capable of more than I realized. Wisdom told me that sometimes I have to let my kids fail in order to succeed. Wisdom told me that I needed to gently remind, but allow my daughter to make her own choice.
In our world today, we give opinions (or orders) to often without using our wisdom to guide us. The priest that I talked about in the beginning of this used Wisdom based on knowledge that others gave him. Instead of thinking of your opinions as the ONLY way, think of your opinion as one of MANY ways. They all may be viable options. Just remember only one way will use wisdom and wisdom will always be God’s way, not necessarily yours.
How can you give advice and not be hurt if someone doesn’t follow it? Why is advice not a waste of time?