Sunday, September 16, 2012

Advice on Advice

When Owen and I announced our engagement we couldn't avoid it no matter how hard we tried. Advice is everywhere, and it comes from so many different sources that you can pretty much choose any advice that you want to get. If you want advice encouraging you to get married, you will find it. If you want advice encouraging you not to get married, you will find it. That's true of just about everything now, especially with all these know-it-alls, like myself, posting our opinions all over the inter-web. How can we even begin to pick the good advice from the bad advice?

First of all, know your source. What perspective is this advice coming from?
I'm that friend that always asks, "So, do you think you'll get married?" As a young wife who greatly enjoys marriage I tend to want everyone else to get married too. Within my excitement for love I have accidentally encouraged relationships between people who should not have been together, only to regret it later. Objectivity is rare: even professional advice, such as that coming from counselors or doctors, can only be given from the perspective of an emotional being.

In matters of love, you should know some background information about where you're getting your advice from. Obviously newlyweds are going to give you different advice from new divorcees, and most advice is going to be surrounding matters that the individual giving it doesn't fully understand.

Second, be open to advice from weird sources. It is my personal philosophy that wisdom can come in all forms, from people of all ages, and even hidden in the midst of folly. Here's a weird example:

Owen and I are planners. We think about everything ahead of time, so it is no wonder that though we don't plan on having children for another three years or so, we already have names picked out and we are already considering how it will affect our relationship. Right now we greatly enjoy knowing that we are each others' first priorities. Adding children to the mix can really only mess up that balance. The advice, or more, random quotation from a random source that most settled my apprehensions on this matter came from American Ninja Warrior.

One of the competitors was describing his love for his family and said, "My children have my heart, and my wife has my soul." It's so cheesy, and it's from such a rando source, but it really speaks to me about how we can find love for our children and our spouses without having to neglect either. So, I suggest that we be open to finding advice or good wisdom wherever it might arise.

Yet, given the surplus of advice and wisdom (or folly) available to us, how do we choose what is best without becoming laws unto ourselves? Is there a way to measure what is good when goodness seems to vary from culture to culture and moment to moment? The only sense that I've been able to make of this conundrum is in the ancient concept of the good tree bearing good fruit. It's in the results!

Fruit Pickers Harvesting Under the Mango Tree
Fernando Amorsolo 1939
When evaluating advice perhaps we should think, "Does this advice bring me peace?" "Does it make me feel more connected to myself and others?" "Does it have the potential of hurting others or myself?" And yet, we cannot truly know that advice is good or bad until after we have given it a go. As is shown throughout history, hindsight is always 20/20.

And thus comes my next bit of advice. Don't let the fear of making mistakes keep you from acting. Especially in the context of relationships, making the big decisions like getting married, breaking up, moving to a new state to stay together, maintaining a relationship long distance, or whatever can be life changing and frightening. Mistakes will be made, and that is okay. Greatness and great happiness do not come from making the easy decisions.

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