“Let me give you some advice.” How often have we heard that? We sometimes ask the opinions of friends or experts, but I know that unsolicited advice is not something people appreciate much. Which is why it is sometimes said that free advice is worth about as much as you pay for it. Or put another way: “Plain advice is free. The right answer will cost plenty.”
Personally, I don’t like advice unless I think I need it. And I’m careful about giving it, too. I know I’m not alone in this. American president Harry Truman once said, “I have found the best way to give advice to your children is to find out what they want and then advise them to do it.” At least that way your recommendation is followed.
One boy wrote in an essay on the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates: “Socrates was a man who went around town giving his advice and opinions, so...they poisoned him!” What this student lacks in historical accuracy he more than makes up for in his sense about how well most unsolicited advice is received.
The problem is...what works well for one person may not fit someone else. Take the wisdom offered by American baseball player Leroy “Satchel” Paige. His rules on living might have been all right for him, but they don’t suit most of us. Here is his counsel. Take it or leave it.
“Avoid fried meats which angry up the blood.
If your stomach disputes you, lie down and pacify it with cool thoughts.
Keep the juices flowing by jangling around gently as you move.
Go very lightly on vices such as carrying on in society. The social ramble
Avoid running at all times.
Don’t look back. Something may be gaining on you.”
Don’t hear me say that all advice should be discarded. Not at all. Nor should we overlook wisdom from unlikely sources. Like the “uneducated.” Or those from a bygone era.
I have a faded letter clipped from a newspaper many years ago. The author published some counsel given him by his grandmother who had died some 60 years prior, and who had never attended school. She offered it printed on a slip of paper, accompanied by the words, “All the advice you’ll ever need to have a good life.” I find it worth remembering. This is what she wrote:
“Wash what is dirty.
Water what is dry.
Heal what is wounded.
Warm what is cold.
Guide what goes off the road.
Love people who are least lovable, because they need it most.” *
There is lot of wisdom packed in those few words. And she said it best: “All the advice you’ll ever need to have a good life.”
– Steve Goodier
* (adapted from Abp. Stephen Langton d. 1228)