Recognizing Bad Advice

Recognizing Bad Advice

The November 2019 Readers Digest has an article called The Worst Advice I Ever Got. Here are some of the entries:

• A rookie fireman was advised to start smoking; it would help him acclimate his lungs to the smoke in a building fire.

• A grandfather told his grandchild: “If you see a bear and don’t have time to run away, hug it. Bears can’t scratch their stomachs.” (Not true, by the way.)

• A father, teaching his teenager to drive, said, “Always weave a little, and all the other cars will stay away from you.”

• The funniest one (for me) was the mom who often told her son, “Be a Michael, not a Sonny.” (As in Corelone, of the The Godfather.) His response: “How about I probably shouldn’t behave like any member of the Mafia?”

The article got me to thinking about some bad advice I received once: “Go ahead and buy the car you want, even if you can’t afford it. The joy of owning it will motivate you to work harder to make the payments.” Who offered this advice? My financial counselor? My frugal parents? No, the salesman who was trying to sell it to me.

However, the worst advice that I have listened to over the years is my own — ie, making decisions without bothering to seek counsel from those who know so much more than me. As Solomon said…

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. (Proverbs 12:15)

As we grow in Christ we need to develop the habit of getting advice, and develop the skill of learning to weed out the worst ideas.

Do not let kindness and truth leave you...

Kindness and Truth

Do not let kindness and truth leave you… (Proverbs 3:3)

Sometimes those who think they have a corner on the truth don’t feel the need to have a corner on kindness.

Both are necessary. Truth is good. It is even better when coupled with kindness.

Loud and Clear

Loud and Clear

When it comes to living a life of wisdom, no one can use the excuse, “I didn’t know, I didn’t hear, I was left out of the loop.”

Wisdom isn’t a whisper in the distance; her voice booms in the present tense — from the street where you live — louder, even, than all surrounding noise.

Wisdom is there to be heard for those who will hear.

The problem is not that we are unable to hear what wisdom says. It’s that we are, too often, unwilling to do what wisdom would have us do. That’s what is holding us back.

Wisdom shouts in the streets. She cries out in the public square.

She calls to the crowds along the main street, to those gathered in front of the city gate: 

“How long, you simpletons, will you insist on being simpleminded? How long will you mockers relish your mocking? How long will you fools hate knowledge? 

Come and listen to my counsel. I’ll share my heart with you and make you wise.” (Proverbs 1:20-23 NLT)

An Early Morning Traffic Jam

[This post is from December 2005 / Rio de Janeiro]

There’s a traffic jam on the street below my apartment. From six floors above I can see what’s causing it. There’s a moving van half way up the street, almost jackknifed. Behind it is a VW that looks something like an accordion. Apparently the truck driver attempted to back into a parking garage and missed.

Behind that, I see about a dozen cars trapped on this narrow one-lane, one-way street. Most of them can’t see the cause of the delay — they just know they’re not moving. And they’re expressing their frustration in the most predictable way: Laying on their horns and shouting as loud as they can.

This has been going for awhile. Horns, angry words, more horns. Obviously the honking strategy isn’t working. Neither is the yelling. Rather than dying down, though, it’s getting louder. I’m not sure what the solution is, but, clearly, increasing the volume isn’t it.

This reminds me of some people I know. (Like me.) I have a tendency to make a lot of noise when things stall up ahead and I can’t see what’s going on. And just like today’s traffic jam, my honking never makes things better. It only adds to the confusion.

have found something that works, though. It doesn’t change the situation; it changes me. It’s the words of King Solomon…

Trust God from the bottom of your heart, don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go, he’s the one who will keep you on track. (Proverbs 3:5-6, The Message)

In the time it’s taken to write this — about a half-hour, between cups of coffee, emails, and staring at the street — the traffic jam has cleared up and everyone has moved on. No real damage done, except to the VW.

Unfortunately, though, for those who were caught up in it, this morning’s mishap may set the tone for the rest of their day. Maybe even their week.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

We need to remember that most of life’s traffic jams clear up eventually. And while we’re stuck, waiting, unable to see what’s happening further up the road, we need to remember that honking doesn’t really help.

Trusting God does, though. Placing yourself in his care and listening for his voice is a strategy that works. Especially when you have no idea what’s causing the holdup. He knows, and he’s the one who can get you through it.

I encourage you to begin this day by deliberately putting yourself in God’s care, trusting him to make your paths straight.

That’s what I aim to do.

Proverbs 1:5

To Increase in Learning

Some listen only to criticize, to find fault, and to pick apart — as in, “How I can use your words to make myself look smarter, better, and more insightful than you?” This explains the old saying: Any fool can criticize, and most fools do.

The wise, however, listen with a different intent, netting a different result. They listen to hear, to understand, and to learn.

Where others may only find fault, the wise have the capacity to pick out the empowering truth and put it to work in their daily lives.

A wise man will hear and increase in learning. (Proverbs 1:5 NASB)