Friday, October 28, 2011

Advice is Counter-Productive

People of all walks of life from all over the world have a common characteristic of offering advice to others. Whether it is in the form of suggesting a product they enjoy to their friends or trying to convince someone to stop a bad habit or switch to their way of thinking, most of us have both given and received advice.

The problem is, advice can ultimately be harmful.

Offering someone your opinion of their circumstances, needs, or interests seems like a helpful thing to do, and yet it is also commonly observed that people rarely follow the advice of others. Sometimes, we even resist the advice of others so strongly that we avoid doing something we would have done anyway simply because someone presumed to suggest it to us.

It can even lead to a cycle of avoidance of either the subject or the person so that we can avoid an impression of following the advice.

I think this is something we are all at least somewhat aware of, and the big question is why this is the case.

I believe that we are here to learn, to grow, and to evolve as spiritual beings. When we come here we chose what path we want to take and even though some of it is decided, it is also incredibly important that we have free will in our decision making because this is the reason for the world being as it is and the best way for us to grow. Every one of us cherishes this free will, it is essentially what we equate with freedom (here in America) and it is something we will fight to the death to keep.

Without our free will we are merely carried along in the current of our lives, making no decisions of our own. In this case, nothing that we do matters because we didn't chose to do it ourselves. This cannot teach us anything, and it relieves us of all responsibility we hold to act in a manner according to our beliefs.

We cherish our free will as much-if not more- as anything else in life. When someone gives us advice, even if well meaning, it feels as if our free will is being taken away. If we follow what they've said and do it to the letter, we are essentially enacting THEIR decision rather than ours. Though this isn't necessarily a concious thought of ours, we often resist the advice given in our own ways.

For the person giving the advice this can be equally harmful. They are concerning themselves with the decisions of another person, while neglecting their own decisions. The advice given could potentially be something that they should be listening to themselves - or even a habit they have that they are suggesting to another in order to not feel alone or judged in doing it themselves.

We are each here with our own mission and our own unique path. It is one thing to help one who comes to you in need, doing only what they've asked you to do and offering no advice but rather understanding and compassion. We want to be understood and listened to by others, not told what we should be doing when we are already hurting from what has happened.

As humans, we need to arrive on our own terms. We have to figure it out for ourselves and come to our own conclusions, otherwise we've learned nothing except how to follow others.

This drive is so deep within us that even seeing someone else not following their own free will and being directed and lead by others can make us want to do something about it. However, it's still not our choice to change the lives of others. We tend to think that suffering is bad and not suffering is good, but in the karmic sense the exact opposite is true. It is through suffering that we are strengthened, and it is through no suffering that we become complacent and engrossed in less than spiritual pursuits.

We have to let others make their own decisions and find their own answers, even when we know that what they've chosen is going to cause them pain. It seems to be the opposite of compassionate to allow someone to stumble and hurt themselves, but true compassion is allowing someone to be who they need to be, and helping them through the pain when it comes.

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