Have you ever ignored advice and gone ahead to do something you really thought you wanted, only to see afterward that you were foolish not to have listened? As humans, we know what we want–at least we think we do. Furthermore, we don’t like being wrong. What this means is that when we see something we want we tend to ignore well-meant advice others give us, only to realize afterwards that, as aggravating as the warnings were, we should have listened.
“The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.” (Proverbs 12:15 NIV)
Knowing what you want and plodding foolishly onward tends to occur more frequently in our younger adult years, but anyone is capable of making this mistake.
Last year we were unexpectedly presented with an opportunity to adopt a beautiful fur ball of a German Shepherd pup. Our neighbor’s son was moving into an apartment that didn’t allow dogs, and he stopped by to show us his puppy. From the moment our older daughter took him into her arms it was love at first sight, and our younger daughter and I were equally smitten. My husband, however, didn’t loose his senses. He told us we would need to take him to obedience training, and questioned whether we would follow through. Furthermore, he was concerned about the fact that this would become a large dog and that because of his weight his nails would damage our new wooden floors. Yet the girls and I were euphoric at the prospect of a pet, and nothing would dissuade us.
Yet, as time passed we failed to take him to obedience class–not because of any ill will on our part, but simply because we were already running somewhere almost every day. We did take him–once–to get his nails trimmed, but that lapsed as time went on. Furthermore, because we hadn’t properly trained him he got to pretty much everything that wasn’t nailed down–and some things that were. Our sofas and throw pillows became his chew toys, he damaged an outside deck board and the corner of our kitchen cabinets, the throw rug was ruined because he brought his bones there, he gnawed his way clear through the back door to the outside, the love seats were irreparably damaged from his jumping, and yes, our beautiful new wooden floor was eventually scratched. All of this, simply because the girls and I were not open to reason!
They do say hindsight is 20/20, but this is simply not the best way to learn. I understand why we did what we did, but we still have to live with our foolishness. Even though we no longer have the dog, we now have the expense and bother of either replacing or repairing the various things he destroyed. Yet, sometime our foolishness involves relationships or even lives, and this cannot be replaced or repaired.
Think of a person who refuses to call a cab or ask a friend to drive him home after drinking too much–can he get his ability to walk back from a debilitating accident or bring an innocent victim back to life? If a crime was committed, will society overlook it; will he not have to suffer the legal and financial penalty for his behavior? Yes, God will forgive us if we turn away from our sins, but we will still have to live through the consequence of foolish choices; there is no way around that.
The reason God tells us to listen to advice is because we can be remarkably short-sighted about the consequences of our actions. Someone not directly impacted by the decision at hand who has nothing at stake possesses more objectivity, and can point out consequences we may prefer to ignore.
So, in what kind of decisions might we benefit from objective advice?
-Whether we are driving-impaired because of alcohol
-Whether to continue attending church, praying and reading God’s Word
-Whether a particular person is a good or poor influence on our behavior
-Which educational institutions of higher learning might benefit us best for our future lives
-Who may or may not make a good future spouse
-Which employer might be the best fit for us
-And various other circumstances
This is not to say parents or guardians must make all of our decisions for us; to the contrary, sometimes the person directly involved is the one best positioned to understand what is best. Yet, input from a disinterested source, such as a parent or other trustworthy and mature adult, can bring to light factors we may prefer to ignore which, if taken to heart, can spare us future grief.
Help us not close ourselves off from those who care most about us and our well-being, but listen to advice. Amen.