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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

On Advice

I'm sure this post will ruffle some feathers, but so be it. I feel like I ought to give an explanation as to why, in my previous post, I specifically asked that any advice be withheld, and why I closed comments so quickly.

The fact is that my request was very directly ignored and no, I'm not a bit surprised. I had only hoped that perhaps the limit I set (with what I thought was humorous enough and bright enough to garner attention) would be respected a little bit longer for the benefit of those who have experienced this to tell their own stories.

The blogosphere is filled with all sorts of people writing with all sorts of intentions, and because we writers put stuff out there, it often inspires well-meaning souls to offer advice where no advice is needed or wanted. I'll admit that I usually just ignore useless advice, realizing the good intention of the writer and the sincere good will.

A lot of people see a certain "distress" and of course, quite naturally want to jump in and "help", probably without realizing that no help is really needed. Yet, THEY have a need to reach out anyway, and they fulfill that need of theirs by commenting.

Sometimes those comments are not about the person towards whom they are directing the comments. I've often commented on blogs and even with a note of advice, realizing as I hit the submit button that what I just said is advice I needed for myself. Whether it was useful to anyone else? Who knows?

In any case, I can tell you that being on the receiving end of advice has made me curb my own comments on others' blogs or web sites.

The Importance of Restricting Advice to a Few

The fact is that right now I am in a very fragile point in my discernment and the fact that I'm writing about it should not be taken by readers as an invitation to give advice. I wrote about what I was going through during my visits, and those who have done the same thing, I am learning, have also EXPERIENCED the same thing. And unfortunately, presumptive advice from people who have no idea what they're going through and want to "fix" the situation.

I know this because some of them have contacted me to say so. But here's the funny thing: NOT A SINGLE ONE has offered me any advice. Why? Because they know better than to do so. They, having often been victims of unsolicited advice at the hands of well-intentioned but clueless people realize that the best response is a simple "I went through that, too." Not to wax pop-psychology all over the place but validation DOES have its place.

Know that what I've put on my blog is not everything. There is a great deal more happening which I am NOT going to discuss in an open forum, and even have some difficulty in discussing with the people on the "short list". THOSE very few people are the ONLY ones qualified to give me advice.

Yes, I said "QUALIFIED" and I mean it. They know the details which are not now nor never will be public. We've spoken directly in verbal form. They know me personally and...they've been through this themselves, at least to some degree. The people who are qualified to give me advice are those who ironically, keep their advice at a minimum, don't incorrectly analyze me, and don't minimize the experience by making offbeat and illogical suggestions.

And when they do give advice, they don't presume anything in the process. They realize the key thing in discernment: it is a very intense personal discussion with Our Lord, and the job of my spiritual director and friends on that list is to help me hear Him more clearly.

Dangers of Unsolicited Advice:

The problem is that everyone wants to offer a suggestion which I guarantee you won't be proper and which they WOULD NOT offer if they knew all the details.

And the other half of that: the unsolicited advice might be completely contrary to what I know I need to do, have been told to do, and the wrong advice might stick in my head and distract me, cause doubts, second-guessing, etc.

In the end, such "advice" backfires and causes greater problems. It doesn't solve anything. I don't need anyone here to solve anything for me. It's not the JOB of any of my readers to solve anything for me.

Perhaps, then, you may be asking WHY I post what I do, if not for advice?

I post it on behalf of others who are also discerning. And it seems that every time I consider deleting a post or just taking the whole blog down, someone sends me an email to express that they are in a similar boat and what I'm writing helps them to realize they're not crazy, they're not alone, and others go through the same thing. And it is those emails that keep me going, too. Because in reading them, I realize that I'm not crazy, I'm not alone, and others are going through the same thing.

I do hope that what I write also helps others to better understand the people in their life who might be discerning their own Vocations. I hope it helps people to realize that it's NOT an easy process, nor should it be. Nothing worthwhile or real is easy.

Mother Assumpta of the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, a few years ago at a conference said, "You have to suffer for what you love." It was true about the topic in that conference, and it's true about discerning God's will. If we love God, we have to suffer in and with that love, and through that love. We can only find Him if we pass through the Cross.

Discernment is a road to Calvary. I am reminded of Jesus' own terrible walk up that hill, and recall the advice given to Him as He was crucified: "Come down from that cross!"

He didn't get good advice either, did He? And if He had taken that advice...where would ANY of us be?

Jesus listened to the voice of the Father, and acted in the will of the Father, even though everyone around Him had something else to say about it, all of it wrong, because they, also, didn't have all the facts, and didn't understand even those that they DID have!

So to those of you who live to give advice, please understand that it is for my spiritual good to ask you to stand down and stay your hands. You may think you have the perfect thing to say, and maybe you do, but please respect the fact that, unless I state otherwise, I need to focus on the advice coming from those who have all the facts and know me the best.

Thank you, and God bless you.


Joe of St. Thérèse said...

I'm going to steal this and post on a later date when I get back, this pretty much will express what I'll be feeling next week ;)

Anonymous said...

Amen! Amen! Amen to the last, like, seven posts. Know that you remain in my prayers -- I entrust myself to your own.

He is faithful!

Kathreja said...

Amen. Hallelujah. Amen. Amen. Amen.


Hidden One said...

I just bookmarked this post to refer to/blatantly plagiarize (but only with permission) sometime in the future. Likely soon.

oro, omnimodo.

Melanie B said...

Amen about the unsolicited advice! Get far to much of it myself on my blog. Try writing about potty training and see how much advice you get! Anyway, just wanted to say I'm praying for you. Not really like the agony you're experiencing I'm sure but I do remember discerning marriage and it was very difficult and heart wrenching so I feel great sympathy. Eventually you will find the place God has prepared for you and I will rejoice with you to see that day. Until then, may God bless you on your journey.

Adoro said...

Thanks, everyone for your comments.

As far as quoting long as there's attribution, feel free, if you think it would be helpful. :-)

Warren said...

I'm a guy. I normally can't resist the urge to fix things. This means giving advice. In your case I make an exception, because I realize that however kindly meant it may be, it's just darn irritating.

I keep all such subjects which could lead to someone giving me unsolicited advice strictly OFF my blog, for this very reason.

There are things that belong between one and one's spiritual director or confessor, and perhaps which can be discussed with one's closest friends, meaningfully, but which, I found, when I posted about them on my blog, hoping for the edification of others, I ended up with a virtual "bloodbath" war-of-words between people whose values and ideas are nearly 100% different from anything I recognize or respect as Catholic, even though almost all of them were Catholic christians.

This was a shocker to me, until I realized the confluence of two things: (a) the openness that we have on blogs sometimes is combined with near physical anonymity; Our names and our faces are hidden, everything personal about our persons is gone, and this encourages people to assume we're not smart enough to solve things ourselves, or that our solutions and ideas about our own lives are not good enough.

(b) That it takes three seconds to write a blog comment, and zero seconds to think about it before you click the button to post it. Easy to do, and therefore, easy to do without much thought.

So. Certain subjects. Off my blog. Forever. Anybody who had followed mine for years will know what I'm talking about.

Most people were more than respectful, but the people who weren't ruined it for everybody else.

If any woman (or man) sin not in what he blogs (or comments), the same is a perfect woman (or man).


Adoro said...

Warren ~ You know, I think the rep guys have about wanting to "fix" everything just isn't true. I receive far less unsolicited advice from men than I do from women! And that's not limited to the blog! I know far too many women who are "fixers" and it makes me wonder what crackpot came up with the "women listen and men fix" paradigm!

Thankfully there are no wars in my comboxes as I think I have the most polite and well-mannered readers in the history of blogdom (if a bit heavy on the "fix-it" side! lol)

I'm sorry that your experience wasn't so good. :-(

Some topics do charge people up though and I HAVE experienced some of that over the years, although it's rare I blog polemics just because I don't want to deal with it.

YouKonwWho said...

you already got my advice! lol...

seriously, I think sometimes people dont' realize they're giving advice. They just think they are sharing thoughts. but it is advice. really hard for me to keep it to myself sometimes. SOrry If i've ever been guilty.