My Advice To You

My Advice To You May 15, 2019

This is a pretty great piece. The whole thing, but also this bit:

It would be really nice if information that could transform someone’s values was able to be handed over as cheaply as driving instructions. In such a world, people could be of profound assistance to one another with little investment in one another’s lives. The myth of advice is the possibility that we can transform one another with the most glancing contact, and so it is not surprising that one finds so much advice exchanged on social media. When people are not fighting on Twitter, they are cheerfully and helpfully telling one another how to live. In that context, advice functions as a kind of small talk or social glue: it helps people feel they are getting along in a space not bound together by any kind of shared weather.

Made me immediately think of Christian ‘discipleship’—that nebulous and ill-defined term, meaning different things to different people at every moment. Sort of like ‘building community’ which I myself say all the time, but what do I even mean?

The Christian who minces along preparing to give advice would probably say something like, ‘I’m gonna speak into her life’ or ‘come along side her’ in one of those drive-by Holy Spirit modes where you thrash around trying to pluck a speck out of someone’s eye, all the while bashing her inadvertently with the splintery plank lodged in your own.

Really, it’s about insecurity, because so many of us don’t really know what we’re doing—or, we do know what we’re doing but we don’t feel like we know, and so we go around asking each other for ‘advice’ but really what we want is affirmation, or permission to try and fail, or commiseration, or just human contact in an isolating world.

When my children ask me what I think they should do I always say, “How should I know? I’m not you.” And then they blink at me angrily. But then they figure it out and it was better for them because it was their own action, their own learning. But then sometimes I fall into the lecturing, “You should do it this way,” mothering and they still blink at me and then go and do the opposite.

If you really want to do something, in whatever corner of life, you will probably figure out how to do it—get the help from an expert, or watch a lot of YouTube, or just try it many different ways until it makes sense. But then, sometimes God comes along and really wants you to do something, and the constraints and hunger he lavishes on you, until you actually do it, are surprising, invigorating, and irritating. When you are in the middle of some such overturning the best thing is for another person just to say, “Oh I know, I know,” and “I’m really praying that God sorts it all out.” And then he usually does.

Anyway, my advice to you is to…just kidding, I have no idea.

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