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The Dangerous Gift of Advice

    We are quick to give advice.  Now, this “we” may not include “you,” but it does include “me.”  And from the nature of our posts on social media, I think this is a fair assessment of things.  We have opinions, and part of being a person is declaring our opinions to the world around us.  We blog, post opinions of films, disagree on message boards, etc.  The rise of the internet has turned everyone into a preacher.  

    And not only do we have opinions about last night’s episode, or the best pizza in town, but we also have advice for what you should do with your life.  I can look at someone’s life and play armchair quarterback.  Should you stay or should you go?  Should you speak or remain silent?  We all have an opinion.  

    As I grow older, I find myself less and less vocal about my opinions.  I have many.  And they are very strong.  And some of them are even grounded in truth.  But when it comes to a decision a person should make, I tend to listen much more intensely than I used to. 

    Frodo said it best, “Go not to the elves for counsel, for they will say both no and yes.”  And the elves respond to this accusation, “Elves seldom give unguarded advice, for advice is a dangerous gift, even from the wise to the wise, and all courses may run ill.”   All course may run ill.  Yes they may.  The Bible gives a similar warning.  

        “Answer not a fool according to his folly, 

        lest you be like him yourself.  

        Answer a fool according to his folly, 

        lest he be wise in his own eyes.”

This piece of wisdom makes a simple point; there are pros and cons to being silent.  There are pros and cons to speaking.  There is a decision to be made, and that decision will have consequences.

    So… I have said all this.  And I haven’t yet said what I am trying to say.  I am trying to share a lesson that I am still learning.  Be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.  Listen.  Even a fool appears wise when he shuts his mouth.  I am trying very hard to learn when to open my own.  

    A pilgrim on the Way.

    -Ernesto Alaniz

(Originally published on May 21st, 2014)