My handy, well-worn dictionary leaps to my hand much like Thor’s hammer. As I write, words flow and leak onto the pages of my current project. But sometimes, they don’t look right. In those moments, I instinctively reach to my left and soon I’m thumbing my way through pages of words until I find the object of my search.
I find comfort in the company of my dictionary. Its editors exhibit no hesitation and no doubt. The words fall into their alphabetic order and the definitions are succinct and definite.
I always feel enlightened and confident as I slide the life’s work of Messrs. Merriam and Webster back into its place. (And yes, I did have to look up the plural of “Mister.”) I am pleased to have asked for and received good advice — at least in my world of words.
However, packing almost six decades of experience into my overcrowded mind and somewhat worse-for-wear body, I now recall thousands of moments when I have questioned myself and my situation and the action I might take.
In my early years, rarely did I take the time to pause and seek advice. As I grew older, my capacity for seeking the wisdom of others did increase. Occasionally, on family trips I actually stopped and asked for directions. I would talk to my doctor about physical ailments and treatments. Often, I would find some willing soul and I would dump every bit of drama from my life into theirs.
While I often acted positively regarding where to turn my car and I almost always followed Dr. John’s treatment protocols, I rarely seriously accepted and employed the advice of others when it addressed the messier parts of my life.
I’m not certain of all of the reasons I respond that way. Perhaps it is pride. Maybe it’s because I already know what people are going to say and I don’t like the answer.
In recent days, as I view the messiness of life all around me, I’m captured by the idea that messiness is normal — and that it can be blinding and decapacitating. But close by, from a place just slightly elevated above the quagmire I’m sinking in, is another person who has a little advice that just might change my life for good. They can see what I cannot at the moment.
The words of these good people are rarely arranged in order like the ones in my dictionary. Nor are they as precise and assured. Almost always, the advice of friends and mentors is well-intended and offers me something I am missing — a next step, the first piece of a plan of action.
Yet, this wealth of wisdom sits largely untapped, gathering dust.
So, my advice to me is . . .
- Gratefully accept the insights of those who would advise me.
- Allow my advisor to finish what he or she wants to say.
- Pause and let the counsel soak in.
- Invest in a moment of discernment and harvest those things that have the potential for moving me beyond my present condition.
- Ask questions.
- Verbally thank my advisor for his or her concern and investment in me.
- Mentally commit to doing something. (Even if that something is seeking another advisor!)
- Physically, do something! Move! Don’t relapse into the mess without taking whatever action, however small, that will better your plight.
Finally, I need to be thankful that God placed others close by and willingly accept that divine gift and the advice these mentors bear.