People mean well.
They really do!
But, I’ve learned that people have to live their own lives and choose their own paths. As much as we don’t like to see the people we love suffer, contrary to popular practice or belief, there isn’t much we can say or do to ensure they don’t make the wrong decisions. We can only be there for them on the other side.
It all started in the garden.
Since the tempting of the serpent in the garden of Eden, we as humans have a hard time “Taking your word for it.” We now have to see for ourselves. Which is why just telling someone not to do something seldom stops them from doing it, children and adults alike. Then, we tell our anecdotal stories about how a similar situation didn’t work out for us, hoping that those stories will be the proof they need to decide against it, and it still doesn’t work.
One person’s experience doesn’t equate to someone else’s understanding.
For whatever reason, the person you’re trying to warn, often thinks their situation is just different enough from yours, or someone else’s, that they’ll have a different outcome. Who knows if that’s actually the case, but the more important point here is that everyone is different, including the comparable participants of each of our lives and situations.
We all have separate lives to live and be accountable for, and we can only love people regardless of their choices.
I remember once trying to talk a girl out of dealing with a guy that had done me wrong. Obviously, I was scared, but I thought I was doing my duty to warn her. Long story short, she didn’t listen to me and now they’re married. (How’s that for a lesson in advice? Ha!)
I don’t know the details of their relationship, and that’s just the point. We seldom know all the details required to make a judgment. Who knows what made her different than me? Who knows what made him settle down? As similar as it seemed in the beginning, her experience wasn’t the same as mine.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to offer advice and guidance, just keep in mind there are many factors involved.
So, if you’re the type that likes to save the world through advice, here are some things that maybe you should consider. (The irony is that this is advice that you may or may not choose to accept. I understand that, and I’m okay with it.)
- Make sure the person you’re talking to actually wants advice.
- Sometimes, we just want a listening ear, not for someone to make a judgment about what we’re thinking, feeling or doing. Before your personal experience bubbles up into a “DON’T DO IT!”, ask them if they’re open to advice at that time.
- If you feel like someone has made a bad judgment, be careful how you express that.
- People do what they think is best in the moment, and at the end of the day, they are the ones who have to deal with the consequences of their decisions and actions. Judgment is not our job, especially because we don’t always know the inward motivations of actions.
- Try not to look down on people who decide to take their own path.
- It’s very likely that someone may make the mistake you warned them of. They may go through with it, even after agreeing that the decision wasn’t in their best interest. Don’t shun them for walking out their path. The same experience you gained after your mistake or learned lesson can happen for them as well.
We can only hope and pray that people gain the lesson in their choices. And if they find it was a mistake, we can only hope they don’t become bound by regret.
Change should be facilitated.
I hope this helps the advice giver and receiver, which ever side you may find yourself on.