November 25, 2020

The Problem of Personal Advice

In the play Our Town by Thorton Wilder, we visit a fictional town of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire. During the second act of that play, George Gibbs, who is about to marry his neighbor Emily Webb, asks his future father-in-law for advice.

Charles Webb responds by telling him that the advice he was given by his father was that he should give her obtuse orders so that she learns to obey, leave the house if she ever does anything to annoy him, and to never tell her how much money he has.

After a beat, he says that he took the exact opposite of that advice and has been happily married ever since.

You Situation May Vary

This is exactly the kind of thing that you get from advice found on the Internet. No one lives your life, has your spouse or is bringing up your children, but everyone knows how you’re doing and, more importantly, what you’re doing wrong.

When my brother had his first child, he asked me for advice, and I told him that it was difficult, because each child and parent is different. I said that the only advice that I knew that was good was that you should always keep your word. If you say something to your child, you should follow through– especially with discipline. So make sure you only say things you’re actually going to do, otherwise it’s nothing but tests. He wasn’t impressed. That was ok, he had friends and a book they were reviewing, but thanks anyways…

The Bible Knew That You’d Need People, Not Books

When it comes to the Bible, it’s neat to see that God knew that we’d need investment from godly people in our lives, not just words on a page, to carry out God’s commands. He gave us the church– a place for us to grow in Him and have accountability. He also told the older men to mentor the younger men in godly traits, and the same for the women. He says that you should be involved in someone else’s life in more than a superficial way– and that there’s much to benefit from relationships that are not just your peers.

We tend to gravitate towards are peers and how they solve problems, rather than looking to elders. Elders like to look past the middle age range, figuring that middle age range will reject advice. So there’s issues with both ends.

But the point is we need to make investments, and not just shell out money for books, read blogs or watch YouTube videos. God’s plan has investment in lives as a high priority task. So what are you waiting for?

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