I believe in the Biblical account of the Fall-Eve biting the apple and all that. I believe it in spirit because we 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 counsel on smaller issues. Fear will motivate a person, even though love is better. We seem to be more motivated when we are motivated by fear; and so, when people who love us give us unasked-for advice, we ignore them. And when God, who loves us so dearly, calls and stretches out his hand, we do not pay attention.
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.
During his sermons, a preacher I used to know often asked, “Christian, where’s your promise you’re standing on?!” I like to ask myself that question before opening my mouth with fervor or advice. Otherwise, I’m just a noisy gong or clanging cymbal, not speaking the truth in love. If there is no principle behind my advice, why offer it at all?
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. But all advice ought to be accepted graciously. It’s a promise that “as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” That other person is making me better, even if his advice is wrong. This is my heritage as a child of God. So, as the Apostle James urged, “Let every man be quick to hear, slow so speak, and slow to anger.”
Good advice, although I find it difficult to follow. Because I’m often proud, too.