you know…you look at their situation and see changes they need to make. or they come to you for advice or help and you are willing to give it. or you see the mess they are making and you have this urge to explain to them why they have the mess…and then you are more than happy to give them the plan to clean it up.
i’m pretty much that guy. yeah. i’m a people-helper by my trade, but it also seems to be something i come by naturally. people tend to call me when they want to talk…or when they’re facing difficulty…or when they need help working through a problem.
here are some things the bible gives me license to do:
mmm. quite an arsenal. and after all these years, i’m locked and loaded most all the time. you want advice? i’m more than ready to give it. you want counsel? i’m your dude. you need a plan for your life? most of the time, you don’t even need to ask for it. i’ve already got it in my hip pocket…ready to unload my wisdom at a moment’s notice.
but over the past 10-15 years, i’ve learned some things that have changed how i go about handing out my pearls.
first, you never know the whole story. people’s lives are complicated. you may think you know enough to give exactly the right kind of advice or rebuke, but you most likely don’t. there are details missing from your insight. geez. there are probably details missing from the angle of the person you’re trying to help. and those missing details may just change everything.
second…and this sounds very hopeless…but people are gonna do what they’re gonna do. i’ve tried laying in front of train wrecks that are about to happen. you want to know the outcome? most of the time, i just become a casualty in the inevitable wreck. look, nobody (that i’ve ever met) wants to choose sadness and heartache. nobody (that i know) decides to get up in the morning and make a mess of their life. but hear this: most everybody i know truly believes they know what’s best for their own lives.
they may be confused in the moment. they may feel conviction of sin. they may know the pain their decisions are probably going to produce. they may even have other options available. but they often feel powerless to grasp a better way. they may simply default to a path they know. they may be too afraid to walk a higher road or one with a completely unknown ending. your advice or counsel may make perfect sense to you…but to them, it just doesn’t compute. so they just trust their own judgment.
(there are some people who are so wracked by depression or anxiety or fear that they feel powerless to make wise decisions, in spite of being presented with healthy options. people in this condition need more…sometimes way more…than advice from a friend or padre.)
third, people are going to make bad decisions…imo…but god is in the business of redemption. when i read the bible…as well as when i look at history…there is no question that god sees the very worst of human decision-making and doesn’t turn his back. he doesn’t run away. he keeps his promise to never leave. jesus’ command to “go and sin no more” begins fresh every day.
and i’m a hypocrite in this area. i love god’s patience with me. i love that he redeems my bad decisions. i love that he never turns his back on me, in spite of my crummy attitudes and selfish motivations and impure thoughts and sinful decisions. but i’m not always happy when he is that gracious to others. i want to see some consequences. i want to see payback. i want retribution. man, my hypocrisy stinks…
fourth, when people don’t follow my advice (especially when they have asked for it), they are not rejecting me. maybe my presence was what they needed…more than my words. maybe they just needed to know they weren’t alone. maybe it wasn’t rejection, at all. maybe my insight was just part of the plan.
a few weeks ago, i studied the concept of encouragement. encouragement is not kind words or thoughtfulness or praise or recognition. encouragement means to carry another person’s burden. to share the load. to shoulder the weight. and sometimes that means to shoulder the weight of a bad decision. sometimes it means to quietly watch as someone chooses to struggle. sometimes it means to live close enough to pick up the pieces.
i will never stop reproving and rebuking and exhorting and teaching. i will not stop warning of impending train wrecks and implosions that lay in wait just around the corner. but i cannot…and will not…be responsible for other’s choices. people have to do that for themselves.
that’s the way people go.