You ever have one of those deals where you pretended to ask for someone’s advice? You know, one of those times when you already knew exactly what you wanted to do in a certain situation, what you wanted to say, how you wanted to respond? And so, you went to someone that you were pretty sure would agree with you and asked them, “What would you do?” or “What do you think I should do?” And the whole time, you just wanted them to say, “Oh, honey, you’re exactly right!”
I reckon all of us have accomplished that same feat at some time or another. We pretend we’re soliciting advice, counsel and wisdom when really we’re just trying to rack up support or gain sympathy. Maybe it is a bit manipulative and probably even somewhat self-deceptive. Most often, our friends and colleagues probably know what we’re really up to and figure “That’s what friends and colleagues are for, right?”
There’s a pretty simple litmus test in those situations, a check that reveals right quickly whether or not we are sincerely seeking the wisdom of others: how do we respond when they tell us something other than what we wanted to hear?
It’s easy to listen to the affirming answer, the comforting nod, the assuring assent. “Full steam ahead; do exactly what you already decided you were going to do!” But when the counsel of another is that we do something other, something more humble, more patient, more gracious, more forgiving, that’s not so easy, is it? But it is incredibly more valuable and potentially more helpful, more healing, and actually more empowering.
When friends and colleagues tilt us toward the higher path, push us against the grain of our own nature and urge us to do the better thing instead of the easier thing, they transcend the role of easy commiseration. They actually take on the role we only pretended we wanted them to take; they become true friend and genuine colleague.
In gently speaking the words others may not want to hear, we demonstrate true friendship. In the humility of listening, we demonstrate true character. The more we share of such moments, the better we both become.