I believe in the Fall, the Biblical story about Eve biting the apple and the consequences of that act. I believe it in spirit, meaning figuratively but not literally, because human beings seem to act with habitual and wanton disregard for the truth. We disregard truth and proudly carry on in our self-inflated ways even when wisdom shouts and “lifts her voice in the square,” as it says she does in Proverbs:
Wisdom shouts in the street,
She lifts her voice in the square;
At the head of the noisy streets she cries out;
At the entrance of the gates in the city, she utters her sayings:
“How long, O naive ones, will you love simplicity?
And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing,
And fools hate knowledge?
“Turn to my reproof,
Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you;
I will make my words known to you.
“Because I called, and you refused;
I stretched out my hand, and no one paid attention;
And you neglected all my counsel,
And did not want my reproof . . . (Proverbs 1:20-25)
Although being old doesn’t give a person wisdom, learning by experience does. I am finally old enough to be able to look back on a lot of events and old enough to have learned from them. But I’ve been surprised to discover that, for the most part, this wisdom is for myself. As it says in Proverbs 9:12, “If you are wise, you are wise for yourself, and if you scoff, you alone will bear it.” This is so true.
It’s easier to accept good advice about big issues—the ones that scare you or keep you awake at night—than it is to accept someone’s advice on smaller issues. People appear to be more motivated by fear than anything else. Otherwise, we ignore the advice of others when we think everything is fine. In fact, people often make stupid decisions when everything is fine.
The best way to grow in any character trait is little by little. Jesus said that he who is faithful in a very little thing will be faithful also in much; and he who is faithless in a very little thing will be faithless also in much. Therefore, if you want to become wise, the beginning of wisdom is, “get wisdom,” or accept advice. Listen, and consider the advice someone is giving you; consider why the other person is giving you that advice. Ask questions. Consider the possibility (even the probability) that you are mistaken. And if no one has given you advice lately, ask yourself if the reason why might be the way you received the last advice that was given you. Consider the possibility that you are far more resistant and proud than you think you are.
Sometimes the problem is on the side of the giver of advice, particularly when it is unasked-for. Unfortunately, it seems that many people like to hear themselves talk, and often offer advice out of pride. Advice offered out of pride cannot be good advice.
Perhaps growth in graciousness and wisdom, applied to advice-givers and advice-receivers, will make the world a gentler place. When tempted to give unasked-for advice, don’t. When receiving unasked-for advice, smile sweetly and say, “I’ll think about it, thanks for caring.”