I find myself frequently an advice giver—also an advice requestor, but it seems that there is a sofa in my office for a reason. Which makes me think perhaps I went into the wrong line of work, but that is neither here nor there.
Whether because I am a good listener, or offer sage advice, or merely am an available set of ears when people want to talk, I often seem to be where my friends (and even superficial acquaintances) stop when they need to talk something out. The only problem with this concept is I often have no idea what the right answer to their dilemmas may be. Fortunately for all of us, my response when I’m clueless is to say that I’m clueless but am happy to help in any way I can. I don’t try to pontificate some kind of worldly knowledge that I just don’t possess. Mainly I think to avoid lawsuits, but regardless of my motivation, I think that is better for all involved.
Earlier today as I was going through my news feeds, I came upon an article that was exploring the concept that all the things that make us go “Hmmm…” can be easily solved by just asking yourself “What Would Jesus Do?” After all, Jesus—being the son of God and all—was highly enlightened and had the answers, right? Well, at the risk of being a skosh blasphemous on a Sunday morning, no. Jesus, regardless of your beliefs as to his origins and his connection to God, was a man, and like all men (and women) was fallible.
Now I do believe that he was overall a good man and lived a life in service to mankind and trying to do as good as possible. But I really like to think of Jesus in his “missing” years—between the ages of 12 and 30 when there isn’t really mention of what he was doing in the Bible. Mainly because to me this is evidence of just how human he was. Do any of us really want to revisit the things we did during those years? Sure, there was some good, but I like to fondly think of those years as the “mixing” years. The time in my life when I was trying to figure out how not to completely screw things up. When I was mixing the various facets of my personality into something that would be acceptable in general company—as a opposed to the stark raving lunatic I sometimes was to my parents. And the lack of detail about Jesus in those years makes me think perhaps he was doing the same thing.
That being said, I think that our goal is to live our lives as best we can, and when you find yourself with those questions of “What now?” and “What am I supposed to do in THIS situation?” it is better to look at what YOU would do than what Jesus would do.
We all have instincts. It’s the hairs raising on the back of your neck that warn you. It is the rumble in your stomach that tells you when something isn’t right. The problem is so often we don’t listen to those instincts. I find that most of the time when something is troubling me, it’s not really that I need to seek the advice of others. What I really need to do is take the time to sit quietly with my own thoughts and figure out what I truly want or need to do.
Now of course there are those times when the advice of others is needed—when we are going through something that a friend has already gone through and their advice could be helpful. But even then, I would caution against following their lead blindly. No two people are exactly the same and no two situations are exactly the same either. Sure, hearing their story can be a good thing, but remember that you and they are not clones.
I have found that so often the answer to my quandary already lies within my own head or heart. I’ve known good and well when I was in a toxic relationship and needed to put my foot down. I just didn’t want to do it. I knew with every fiber of my being when I was being completely screwed over at work. I just was scared to stand up for myself. There was no doubt in my mind that I needed to walk away from multiple situations where things were spiraling out of control. But leaving seemed harder than staying. And I absolutely knew when I had wronged someone and needed to apologize. My pride was just getting in the way.
My point here is that aside from the sociopaths amongst us, we actually do know right from wrong. We are very aware of what we need to do and not do in most situations. We just have a hard time following the easy path, or being drawn into something that feels good even though we KNOW it is so, so, so bad for us. What I like to do in those situations is try to think about how am I going to feel later? Will I be glad I did what I did or will I be looking back and thinking “Boy was that a mistake! Why did I do that??” If I can take the time to think it through first, I usually steer myself right, and I think you will to.
Of course the obvious exception to that is when you do something that ends badly, but with no harm, no foul, and can serve as a good life lesson or story for your next book. After all, I think a good friend will give you bail money. A *GREAT* friend will be sitting next to you saying “Damn that was fun, now who are we calling for bail money?”