Listen, my daughters, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching. When I was a boy in my father’s house, still tender, and an only child of my mother, he taught me and said, “Lay hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands and you will live. Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.” Listen my daughter, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many, … Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life. … My daughter, pay attention to what I say; listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart.
Proverbs 4:1-6, 10, 13, 20-21
Is that not the mother of all lectures? Listen! Pay attention! Keep my commands! Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget my words! And on and on! I can sympathize with Solomon as a boy – the lectures he must have sat through! In one Bible translation, the scripture says his father sat down and drilled him on these matters. As tedious as lectures can be, we know Solomon was actually a very lucky boy to have a father who cared so much about him that he would take time to instruct him.
When we are very young, lectures don’t do us any good. We learn through hands-on, personal experience. As we grow and mature, we become able to learn in another way – through the experience of others – via lecture in school and advice from family and friends.
Learning through one’s own experience is powerful and certainly preferred when it comes to learning about geography, cultures, languages and the arts. However, there is a whole other body of information that is far preferable to learn from other people’s experience. Take mathematics, for example. Aren’t we glad that someone else figured out for us that the circumference of a circle is equal to the diameter multiplied by π? When it comes to math, we want to take advantage of all that has already been discovered by someone else’s experience and learn through lecture, without all the hassle and brainwork they had to endure. Then, with that foundation, we may move on to discover even greater things about math and how it relates to our lives and the physical universe.
“Life” is another subject in which we can greatly benefit from other people’s experience. Yet many young women today reject the idea of taking advice from someone else about important decisions in life. They want to figure things out for themselves. This is about as sensible as setting out to discover again from scratch the circumference of a circle.
Imagine we’re driving down the road and a red sports car passes us and speeds on ahead out of sight. Five minutes later, the car comes back toward us. The driver slows down and waves at us to stop. He hollers from his window, “The road is blocked up ahead. You won’t be able to get through that way.”
Do we reply: “Hey! This is my life and I’m going to live it the way I want to and if I make mistakes, well, it’s nothing you haven’t done too!” and then speed on ignoring the other driver’s advice? Surely, we wouldn’t do something so silly. But if we have ever invoked the “It’s my life, I’ll make my own mistakes” mantra in response to good advice from someone who cares about us, we’ve done something just that foolish.
That “my life” mantra, or rebel’s yell, usually follows advice we don’t want to hear. Our parent, teacher, mentor or friend is telling us that we are about to do something we’ll regret. It’s obvious to everyone and we know it as well, but our course is set and we are determined the outcome of our actions will be different than what everyone predicts.
At these times, when our desires pit us against common sense and the wise counsel of friends and family, instead of insisting on driving down that road ourselves to find that the road is indeed blocked, try this: say, “I appreciate your concern. I’ll give that some thought.” That’s so easy! We’ve just averted a conflict and prolonged lecture, we haven’t committed ourselves to any change in course and we’re in a great position: we can do anything from here and we won’t have to eat our words. Instead of backing ourselves into a corner with a rebellious retort, we’ve created an open field and we can go anywhere we want without looking or feeling like we’re giving in. We are making our own choices!
Next, we should do what we said we would do: give it some thought. Our head and heart will be clear to consider the advice because we’re not in conflict with the person giving it. Will that advice save us a wasted trip down a blocked road? Proverbs 27:12 says, “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.”
Hold this thought: I learn from the mistakes of others, not repeat them.