On Giving Advice…and Consoling the Afflicted.
“When we are well, we all have good advice for those who are ill.” -Lucius Annaeus Seneca
I never want to be associated with this quote. Here’s why.
I am horrible at this. I’ll spout out generic advice like:
“follow your gut!” &
“oh my gosh get out of that situation now!”
but that’s about it.
I am even worse at consoling someone who is crying or has just told me something awful. My good friend Tiffany (known her since we were 13!!) laughs with me and she admits it- I’ve pretty much been really awkward whenever it came to a sad moment of hers.
“The one thing people are most liberal with, is their advice.” -Francois de La Rochefoucauld
I just don’t know what to do. Some girls are so great with words. They start the confident and ever-so-sure ramblings of, “Oh, girl, you can do soooo much better! Just wait- he’ll get what’s coming to him. You are amazing. You will move on from this and not even remember it! HE’S STUPID!” or “I’m so sorry for your loss. Just know that God needed another angel. You’ll see them again someday. They’re watching over you….”
Yikes. I just can’t do that.
So if you’re coming to me with an issue, this will most likely be my reaction…
“Wow- I’m sorry. I really don’t know what to say.”
Then I will pat your back. I might give you a side hug. If we’re at coffee and we have to stand up to hug, I might make that a very awkward moment, too. Basically, I feel so, so sorry for anyone who comes to me with their issues. I feel so much empathy, I will most likely cry later- after the moment has passed. I recently saw a friend who told me something so heartbreaking that I cried on my way home. I was bawling in the car like a fool and making the road a more dangerous place.
The reason why I think this is okay:
I don’t think people really want that advice.
Yes, I guess it’s nice to hear all of those things about whatever guy just broke up with you. But honestly? Maybe he is a good guy. Maybe he got good grades and isn’t really stupid at all. And I can’t promise that you will move on or not remember this moment of hurting. That’s a silly thing to promise someone, isn’t it? (please tell me I’m not the only one thinking of Dori in Finding Nemo… “Hmm…that’s a funny thing to promise….Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo.”) I don’t control your emotions.
But yes… someone can always do better than someone who hurt them. Of course. I really hope that girls (and guys) realize this, but for some reason I rarely feel as if it’s my place to tell them.
And I will always be sorry for someone’s loss. Always. Again, I’ll most likely cry and be in this weird, somber-like mood that drives Greg crazy for a few days. God didn’t need another angel, angels are already there and we don’t get wings when we go to heaven. There goes that. I have no idea if dead people are watching over us, but I, too, would like to believe that that’s the case. I don’t want to lie to anyone who is going through something so serious and life changing. What are my words, anyway?
I like advice from Little Women.
When Jo asks Friedrich, “What’s going to happen?”
He says, “The inevitable.”
Simple, concise advice.
And later, Amy says to her sister, “You don’t need scores of suitors. You only need one, if he’s the right one.”
Simple wins again.
Here’s a great example of why sometimes [unsolicited] advice is just silly. Every high school and college graduate has been told to “take the road less traveled by,” which has been misunderstood altogether. If anyone were to look at the rest of the Robert Frost poem, they’d see that:
“…Though as for that the passing there, had worn them really about the same.”
Hidden meaning? It doesn’t really matter which way you go. Both paths could lead to good or bad things. It’s cynical, which isn’t usually my style, but I think it’s honest.
At the end of the day, I’ll leave you with this quote:
“It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one’s life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than ‘try to be a little kinder.’” -Aldus Huxley
Or perhaps understood silence is better.
I sure hope so, or I’ve been a pretty awful friend.