Counsel

Advice, opinion, or instruction to a friend needing help.

— Counsel, 02
[do action=”vfdictstart” title=”counsel”/] [do action=”vfdictitem” contents=”advice; opinion or instruction given in directing the judgment or conduct of another.”/] [do action=”vfdictend”/] A counsel or a counselor gives advice. To have a multitude of counselors is to be wise. To give counsel, is to give fresh, firm, belief in something, to another who seeks answers, and/or confirmation.

Counsel allows us to judge rightly what we should do in a particular circumstance. It goes beyond prudence, in allowing judgments to be made promptly. Counsel enables us to see and choose correctly what will help us the most to assist us to work for what is good.

[do action=”vfquote” quote=”When we ask advice, we are usually looking for an accomplice.” author=”Unknown”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Those that won’t be counseled can’t be helped.” author=”Benjamin Franklin”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”The desire of advising has a very extensive prevalence; and, since advice cannot be given but to those that will hear it, a patient listener is necessary to the accommodation of all those who desire to be confirmed in the opinion of their own wisdom: a patient listener, however, is not always to be had; the present age, whatever age is present, is so vitiated and disordered, that young people are readier to talk than to attend, and good counsel is only thrown away upon those who are full of their own perfections.” author=”Samuel Johnson”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” author=”Charles W. Eliot”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Better Counsel comes overnight.” author=”Doris Lessing”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Good council has no price.” author=”Giuseppe Mazzini”/]

Statistics on Counsel

People have wondered if it is possible to minister to mental-emotional-behavioral problems without resorting to psychological models and methods or to psychological gimmicks and devices. The evidence suggests that it is. Three researchers found in a national survey conducted for the Joint Commission on Mental Illness and Health that “of those persons who actively sought help for personal problems, the vast majority contacted persons other than mental health professionals, and that generally they were more satisfied with the help received than were those who chose psychiatrists and psychologists.”

Hans Isnik did a study and found that if you have emotional problems, the probability that you will be well in 1 year if you go to see a psychoanalyst is 44%; psychotherapist is 53%; Psychiatrist is 61%; no one at all is 73%.

[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Give neither counsel, or salt till you are asked for it.” author=”Proverb”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”The counsel you would have another keep, first keep yourself.” author=”Proverb”/]

Wise Counsel From Your Parents

They conceived you, probably nourished and raised you, and protected you from harm throughout your formative years. Natural law mandates that you care for them in their dotage and give them grandchildren. Or, rather, it does, depending on one’s view of the gift of existence. Either you’re infinitely indebted to them, or they you, for bringing you into the world without your consent.

The relationship between parents and children has taken on many different forms throughout human history. Some are said to have sacrificed their children to the gods. The Spartans exposed them. The relationship has even varied widely between members of the same family: boys treated differently than girls, first-born sons different from second and third born sons. And all parents, in all societies, have had favorites.

Most parents, beginning at least as far back as Jacob in Genesis 49:1-33, have understood giving counsel to be central to the task of parenting. The role of counselor is especially important to parents in modern democratic societies. Equality brings parents and children together. Freedom causes parents to value independence and allow their children choice. In societies less free than our own, parents had (and still have) firmer views on what their children should become and less compunction about implementing them. Childhood was seen as an imperfect state of adulthood; to be a child was not, in itself, desirable. Aristocratic societies took the individual as subordinate to the family, and expected them to assume responsibility for the perpetuation of old and good traditions. But we don’t expect families to last for centuries, and we place a high priority on teaching children to “shift for themselves,” in Locke’s phrase. Ultimately, children themselves choose and determine the end of their education. This makes counsel that much more crucial to the job of parenting, for giving counsel is a way to exert influence while still respecting freedom and equality. Our consciences sometimes resist our impulse to tell our children what to do, but we do expect them to consider our views.

Parental counsel will inevitably be shaped by the beliefs and desires of the parents in question. Contrast, for example, the letters of Theodore Roosevelt and F. Scott Fitzgerald to their children. TR exhibited a great confidence in both his public and private lives, but it produced entirely opposite effects. In his public life, TR was a Progressive. The Progressives never shut up about the need for higher standards and ever-increasing improvements to American society, especially those of the starched-collar “Best People” variety. The remark that the Irish are experts in politics, the Jews money, and the Yankees morality dates from the Progressive era. The Progressives gave us Prohibition. (TR did endorse Prohibition, although, as his defenders are keen to point out, late in life and only after much pressure.) In TR’s case, though, this sermonizing stemmed from a conviction that American life could be improved, if we only set ourselves to the task.

TR’s full-blooded participation in the Progressive movement makes all the more interesting the near-complete absence of counsel-giving in his letters to his children. The exuberant, affectionate TR predominates. When with his family, TR allowed himself simply to enjoy life and not worry about the ways in which everything around him should be improved. He seems to have had a basic confidence that his children would turn out all right in the end, so he spent less time giving advice to them and more time horsing around.

Fitzgerald had a much darker worldview. He had a mentally disturbed wife, a rocky career (he peaked too early), and chronic money problems. He was much more impressed by the insecurity and danger of the world than TR, which caused him to be, at times, somewhat preachy. The most famous of his letters to his daughter is about Worry-what to worry about and what not to worry about. It’s also one of the earliest letters, and, when first read, it sounds like a joke, a way of dismissing worry in general by cataloguing and rationalizing it. But as one reads more of letters, it’s impossible not to be struck by how saturated they are with anxiety, anxiety about everything, and most of all his daughter’s future. Perhaps this difference between TR and FSF in the role of parental counselor is simply a reflection of a generational difference between TR’s confident, pre-WWI outlook and FSF’s Lost Generation nihilism. At the very least, it must be a reflection of their different characters. Counsel is a form of indirect control. We only give counsel when we feel the need to exert control and make secure people or situations that are not secure.

By the way, in her introduction to the letters, Fitzgerald’s daughter claims that the anxious tone of his letters was just him being romantic. She insists that she was fairly ordinary, but that he got a kick out of conceiving of her as a glamorous young debutante imperiled on all sides by the temptations and vices of high society.

What do they teach us about wise counsel?

The two chief motivations of parents to give counsel are love and knowledge. There are others: the pleasure in hearing one’s own voice (i.e. pride, specifically pride in knowing that one knows something), and the pleasure of giving instruction, which is essentially the pleasure of understanding. But love and knowledge are the main motivations: your parents can’t help but try to guide you because they love you and feel that they know you, know you well, know you better than anyone else. But a motivation is not the same as a justification. By what right should parents expect to be listened to? The argument would seem to go something like this: you should listen to your parents because it’s in your best interest to do so, and it’s in your best interest for two reasons: one, your parents know you better than anyone else. Father knows best because father knows you best. And two, they care about you.

But is the relation between love and knowledge so close? In the case of self-love and romantic love, love seems just as likely to inhibit understanding as enhance it. The two motivations could easily cancel each other out: your parents’ love for you invalidating their claim to know you. The situation is further confused by the fact that parental love is often connected to an expectation of gratitude, which it is not love at all, but rather the desire for justice. The notion that you should take seriously what your parents say out of gratitude for all they’ve done for you makes even less sense than because they love you. Perhaps justice requires you to act like you’re taking them seriously, but it can’t require you sincerely to take them seriously. That must be decided based on the quality of the counsel itself.

It makes more sense to say that someone with intimate knowledge of your character has a right to be listened to, but this begs all the important questions. Of course a wise counselor needs must have knowledge of whom and about what he gives counsel. But how to acquire that knowledge? How long does it take? Again, isn’t parental love a barrier to objectivity? There is a line in the story “A Wedding in Brownsville” by Isaac Bashevis Singer: “…the strangeness that comes of great familiarity.” He was referring to a husband and wife, but doesn’t the same thought also apply to parents and children?

And yet…there may be something to be said for a connection between love and wise counsel. Often, the most satisfying relationships with a professional advisor are those which are characterized, if not by love, then at least by some sense of affection. Indeed, there is a strong case to be made that affectionate doctors and therapists are indeed superior doctors and therapists, not simply because they are more popular but because people are more likely to follow their advice. Perhaps milder forms of love are not only not barriers to wise counsel, they could be an essential part of it.

Parents are a special case of counselors because they are natural counselors, but we see that there are many questions that arise from the case of parents about wise counsel which transcend the particular case. Another line of questioning implicit in “do parents make for wise counselors?” is “are our superiors (parents, bosses) or our inferiors (our servants, our professional staff) better at knowing what’s best for us?” This is not the same question that was asked in our discussions of Acheson, Jeeves and Richelieu. Those were instances of true superiority. Our parents are only formally superior to us, in the same way that high ranking political officials are. They have more power and authority than we do. Are power and authority essential for wise counsel, or is it the very lack of them and the distance from great responsibilities and the pressure of action that enables counselors to see most clearly? It’s odd to think that the #1 is inherently better-suited for the role of advisor to the #2 than vice versa, and yet this seems to be implied by the case of your parents.

[do action=”vfquote” quote=”The best counselors are the dead.” author=”Proverb”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”All who consult on doubtful matters, should be void of hatred, friendship, anger, and pity.” author=”Sallust”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”It is easy when we are in prosperity to give advice to the afflicted.” author=”Aeschylus”/]

Counselors and Religion

By J. Fraser Field

As large a voice as Abraham Maslow, the founder of modern humanistic psychology, believed that much of the enmity that psychologists express toward religion is due to the fact that they are essentially competing voices, rival recruiting agencies seeking to do good to the same population. In their moral role, counselors and psychotherapists tend to function as a kind of secular priesthood purporting to establish standards of good living while often facilitating a transition to a non-religious view of life.

Psychologists, in seeking to establish themselves and their profession as the most trusted authority when it comes to providing principles for good living are understandably prone to devalue religion, as they seek to justify their appropriation of religion’s role and prestige.

Many people today enter the counselor’s office as they once might have gone to the priest, in search of solace, absolution, meaning, and the chance for a new life. A number of psychologists have made the observation that psychotherapeutic systems have been derived from traditional religious forms; that the psychotherapies possess religious forms, but with secular contents.

Psychologist Robert Sollod has recommended that “…psychologists begin to sort out what aspects of their approaches represent a form of substitute religion, closely mimicking religious traditions, and drawing on those motivations which in a religious context would naturally lead to religious commitment and spiritual development. From the point of view of religion, the psychotherapies may be responding to important religious motivations, which constitute humanity’s spiritual potential and not merely psychological needs.”

Of course the fields of religion and psychology can’t possibly conflict if they serve totally different functions; the problem comes in the fact that counselors and psychotherapists today serve both a scientific and a moralistic role. While their scientific function is usually explicit, their moralistic role is often only implied. “…significant portions of the modern psychologies, and especially the clinical psychologies, are actually instances of religio-ethical thinking. They are, in fact, mixed disciplines which contain examples of religious, ethical, and scientific language. When many of these psychologies are submitted to careful analysis one discovers that they have religious and moral horizons about which both they and the general public are unclear. Frequently the leaders of our religious institutions are also unaware of the religious and moral dimensions in the psychologies that they use.

In their moral role, counselors and psychotherapists tend to function as a kind of secular priesthood purporting to establish standards of good living while often facilitating a transition to a non-religious view of life. One of the biggest problems in communication between much of psychology and religion is the refusal of psychotherapists to acknowledge, address, and if need be defend the implicit moral positions they take.

[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Time is the wisest counselor of all.” author=”Pericles”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Advice from your friends in like the weather, some of it is good, some of it is bad.” author=”Proverb quotes”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”He that gives good advice, builds with one hand; he that gives good counsel and example, builds with both; but he that gives good admonition and bad example, builds with one hand and pulls down with the other.” author=”Francis Bacon”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Men give away nothing so liberally as their advice.” author=”François de la Rochefoucauld”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Advice is seldom welcome, and those who need it the most, like it the least.” author=”Lord Chesterfield”/]

9 Tips For Getting Wise Counsel

By Karen Burns

Knowing how to find wise counsel and how to tell when advice is good or bad are life skills that can take years to master. Here are some tips to shorten your learning curve:

  1. Ask more than one person. This is the golden rule of advice-taking! No one human, no matter how experienced or smart or well-meaning, is going to know all the facts, especially as they pertain to you. What’s more, you’ll be amazed at how often you receive conflicting advice. It’s proof that there are many ways to pursue any one goal.
  2. Seek out counselors who are successfully managing their own lives and careers. Sounds obvious, but how often do you hear of “counselors and advisors” who own lives are a shambles? You may need to be a bit of a detective. Ask for recommendations. And use your own good common sense. Some people project a success that does not hold up upon closer scrutiny. In fact, be a bit suspicious of people whose lives look too perfect.
  3. Try to find counselors who have your best interests at heart. Never forget that anyone’s perspective is colored by his background, level of success, personal demons, world view, and what he had for breakfast that day.
  4. Consider your own motives, too. If you find yourself resisting advice that most people think is sound, ask yourself why. Maybe you currently lack the confidence to step from the known to the unknown. Maybe you’re on the wrong path. Understanding yourself and your capabilities is key to evaluating the input of others.
  5. Be open to input from a variety of sources. Talk to people outside your field for a fresh perspective. And don’t limit yourself to graybeards with forty years of experience. You can often get great advice from people only four or five years ahead of you—they will remember what it was like to be where you are now and may have some very practical things to suggest.
  6. Don’t ignore naysayers. People who always see the bad in everything, or who simply don’t like you, can occasionally be the source of invaluable advice. Naysayers quickly hone in on potential problems. And people who “don’t like you” may say things—true things—about your work or your ideas that friends won’t say for fear of hurting your feelings.
  7. Take notes. Some people love being asked their opinion and will give you way more information than you expected. You won’t be able to take it all in, much less remember it later, so write it down and study it later. However, beware of a counselor who does all the talking. Good counselors are good listeners. A good counselor asks questions, tries to understand you and your goals, and serves as a sounding board for your own ideas.
  8. Look as well as listen. Sometimes successful people are unable to pinpoint why they are successful. But if you study their actions in addition to listening to their words, you might discover their secrets.
  9. Just because you ask for advice doesn’t mean you have to follow it. Do you worry that your counselors will be miffed if you ignore their words of wisdom? Well, maybe they will. But it’s your life and your career, and you are the one who has to live with your decisions.
[do action=”vfquote” quote=”We live in an age disturbed, confused, bewildered, afraid of its own forces, in search not merely of its road but even of its direction. There are many voices of counsel, but few voices of vision; there is much excitement and feverish activity, but little concert of thoughtful purpose. We are distressed by our own ungoverned, undirected energies and do many things, but nothing long. It is our duty to find wise counsel.” author=”Woodrow Wilson”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Ask counsel of both times-of the ancient time what is best, and of the latter time what is fittest.” author=”Sir Francis Bacon”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”If you wish to succeed in life, make perseverance your bosom friend, experience your wise counselor, caution your elder brother, and hope your guardian genius.” author=”Joseph Addison”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”He who is always his own counselor will often have a fool for his client.” author=”Hunter”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”They that will not be counseled, cannot be helped. If you do not hear reason she will rap you on the knuckles.” author=”Benjamin Franklin”/]

Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

Of Counsel

The greatest trust, between man and man, is the trust of giving counsel. For in other confidences, men commit the parts of life; their lands, their goods, their children, their credit, some particular affair; but to such as they make their counselors, they commit the whole: by how much the more, they are obliged to all faith and integrity. The wisest princes need not think it any diminution to their greatness, or derogation to their sufficiency, to rely upon counsel. God himself is not without, but hath made it one of the great names of his blessed Son: The Counselor. Solomon hath pronounced, that in counsel is stability. Things will have their first, or second agitation: if they be not tossed upon the arguments of counsel, they will be tossed upon the waves of fortune; and be full of inconstancy, doing and undoing, like the reeling of a drunken man. Solomon’s son found the force of counsel, as his father saw the necessity of it. For the beloved kingdom of God, was first rent, and broken, by ill counsel; upon which counsel, there are set for our instruction, the two marks whereby bad counsel is for ever best discerned; that it was young counsel, for the person; and violent counsel, for the matter.

The ancient times, do set forth in figure, both the incorporation, and inseparable conjunction, of counsel with kings, and the wise and politic use of counsel by kings: the one, in that they say Jupiter did marry Metis, which signifieth counsel; whereby they intend that Sovereignty, is married to Counsel: the other in that which followeth, which was thus: They say, after Jupiter was married to Metis, she conceived by him, and was with child, but Jupiter suffered her not to stay, till she brought forth, but eat her up; whereby he became himself with child, and was delivered of Pallas armed, out of his head. Which monstrous fable containeth a secret of empire; how kings are to make use of their counsel of state. That first, they ought to refer matters unto them, which is the first begetting, or impregnation; but when they are elaborate, moulded, and shaped in the womb of their counsel, and grow ripe, and ready to be brought forth, that then they suffer not their counsel to go through with the resolution and direction, as if it depended on them; but take the matter back into their own hands, and make it appear to the world, that the decrees and final directions (which, because they come forth, with prudence and power, are resembled to Pallas armed) proceeded from themselves; and not only from their authority, but (the more to add reputation to themselves) from their head and device.

Let us now speak of the inconveniences of counsel, and of the remedies. The inconveniences that have been noted, in calling and using counsel, are three. First, the revealing of affairs, whereby they become less secret. Secondly, the weakening of the authority of princes, as if they were less of themselves. Thirdly, the danger of being unfaithfully counselled, and more for the good of them that counsel, than of him that is counseled. For which inconveniences, the doctrine of Italy, and practice of France, in some kings’ times, hath introduced cabinet counsels; a remedy worse than the disease.

As to secrecy; princes are not bound to communicate all matters, with all counselors; but may extract and select. Neither is it necessary, that he that consulteth what he should do, should declare what he will do. But let princes beware, that the unsecreting of their affairs, comes not from themselves. And as for cabinet counsels, it may be their motto, plenus rimarum sum: one futile person, that maketh it his glory to tell, will do more hurt than many, that know it their duty to conceal. It is true there be some affairs, which require extreme secrecy, which will hardly go beyond one or two persons, besides the king: neither are those counsels unprosperous; for, besides the secrecy, they conunonly go on constantly, in one spirit of direction, without distraction. But then it must be a prudent king, such as is able to grind with a handmill; and those inward counsellors had need also be wise men, and especially true and trusty to the king’s ends; as it was with King Henry the Seventh of England, who, in his great business, imparted himself to none, except it were to Morton and Fox.

For weakening of authority; the fable showeth the remedy. Nay, the majesty of kings, is rather exalted than diminished, when they are in the chair of counsel; neither was there ever prince, bereaved of his dependences, by his counsel, except where there hath been, either an over-greatness in one counsellor, or an over-strict combination in divers; which are things soon found, and holpen.

For the last inconvenience, that men will counsel, with an eye to themselves; certainly, non inveniet fidem super terram is meant, of the nature of times, and not of all particular persons. There be, that are in nature faithful, and sincere, and plain, and direct; not crafty and involved; let princes, above all, draw to themselves such natures. Besides, counsellors are not commonly so united, but that one counsellor, keepeth sentinel over another; so that if any do counsel out of faction or private ends, it commonly comes to the king’s ear. But the best remedy is, if princes know their counselors, as well as their counselors know them.

[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Consult your friend on all things, especially on those which respect yourself. His counsel may then be useful where your own self-love might impair your judgment.” author=”Seneca”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”If you wish success in life, make perseverance your bosom friend, experience your wise counselor, caution your elder brother and hope your guardian genius.” author=”Joseph Addison”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go. I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” author=”Psalm 25:12″/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”A mother is the truest friend we have, when trials, heavy and sudden, fall upon us; when adversity takes the place of prosperity; when friends who rejoice with us in our sunshine, desert us when troubles thicken around us, still will she cling to us, and endeavor by her kind precepts and counsels to dissipate the clouds of darkness, and cause peace to return to our hearts.” author=”Washington Irving”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Good counselors lack no clients.” author=”William Shakespeare”/]

What is philosophical Counseling?

Philosophical counseling is a form of personal counsel. The purpose of philosophical counseling is simply to dialogue philosophically about issues that are meaningful to the client, or interlocutor. It is a form of dialogue that attempts to put everyday problems into a philosophical framework. Socrates, in ancient Greece, hoped that his philosophical interlocutors, those with whom he conversed, would in some respect improve, either their character or their situation in life, through philosophical discussion. Similarly, the philosophical counselor attempts to facilitate clarity for the interlocutor by addressing problems that are amenable to philosophical reflection.

The term “philosophy” has its roots in two Greek words philo and Sophia, meaning “love” and “wisdom” respectively. The philosopher is someone who has a love of wisdom. The philosopher uses many tools in his attempts to discover wisdom, and such tools are readily applicable to problems that face us all in our everyday affairs. Problems suitable for philosophical counseling include, but are not confined to, issues of meaning, purpose, religion, ethics, morality, fulfillment – conflicts of interest, work related difficulties, interpersonal relations, existential matters, and any further topic that requires logical clarity or is amenable to philosophical reflection.

The role of the philosophical counselor is threefold.

First, it is his role to provide a non-judgmental, warm and trusting environment within which the interlocutor may feel comfortable and capable to dialogue openly.

Second, and insofar as the philosophical counseling process is educative, it is the role of the philosophical counselor to help the interlocutor “think for them-selves”. Thinking for oneself in the philosophical context amounts to:

  1. Being critically aware of one’s beliefs, thoughts, actions, desires and judgments.
  2. Understanding the emotional and conceptual structures which frame such beliefs, thoughts, actions, desires and judgments.
  3. Being able to identify that which is true, authentic and logically coherent and distinguish it from that which is false, inauthentic and logically incoherent.

Third, it is the role of the philosophical counselor to help contribute to the resolution, management or dissipation of problems affecting the interlocutor.

[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Write down the advice of him who loves you, though you like it not at present.” author=”Proverb quotes”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”We give advice by the bucket, but take it by the grain.” author=”William R. Alger”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”If I were asked to give what I consider the single most useful bit of advice for all humanity it would be this: Expect trouble as an inevitable part of life and when it comes, hold you head high, look it squarely in eye and say, ‘I will be bigger than you. You cannot defeat me.'” author=”Ann Landers”/]

“My grandmother told me to be nice to everyone and always think about how you would feel if you were in their shoes. It’s really good advice.”

The Sun Screen Song

One of my favorite song’s, is commonly referred to as “The Sunscreen Song”. It is what sounds like a commencement speech, set to music. In fact it is not a real commencement speech (though it should be!), but rather a column that appeared in the Chicago Tribune on June 1, 1997 entitled “ADVICE, LIKE YOUTH, PROBABLY JUST WASTED ON THE YOUNG” by staff writer Mary Schmich. Sometime around Thursday, July 31, 1997, Mary’s article found it’s way onto the internet in the form of an email hoax, claiming to be the 1997 commencement address of Kurt Vonnegut to MIT grads. The real address that year was actually delivered by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan on June 5. You can find it posted on MIT’s website. A year later, the email re-circulated claiming to be Kurt’s commencement address to the Class of 1998! The email caught the attention of Australian film director Baz Luhrmann, who is best known for two films — “Strictly Ballroom,” about competitive dancing, and a 1996 remake of “Romeo and Juliet,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes. Luhrmann eventually tracked the source of the speech to Schmich, and contacted Chicago Tribune management to buy the rights to the words to turn it into a song. He took Quindon Tarver’s “Everybody’s Free (to Feel Good)” song, remixed it, and hired Sydney actor Lee Perry to read Schmich’s “speech”. The end result became the seven-minute long “Sunscreen Song”. The song received heavy airplay from American radio stations nationwide after KNRK in Portland aired an edited (about 4 1/2 minute) version in the spring of 1999 — about the time of graduation that year. According to Luhrmann’s label, Capitol Records, it became the most requested song on radio morning shows in Atlanta and Philadelphia.

The lyrics to Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen

by Mary Schmich:

Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.

Sing.

Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Floss.

Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.

Stretch.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.

Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You’ll miss them when they’re gone.

Maybe you’ll marry, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll have children, maybe you won’t. Maybe you’ll divorce at 40, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don’t follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they’ll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They’re your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft.

Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don’t expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you’ll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don’t mess too much with your hair or by the time you’re 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen.

“Listening to parents’ advice is sort of like watching commercials. You know what’s coming, you’ve heard it all before, it’s a big bore, but you listen anyway”

“The best way to succeed in life is to act on the advice we give to others.”

[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn’t.” author=”Erica Jong”/]

Tips for Giving Friends Good Counsel

Friends often come to us for a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen or words of good counsel.

The first step to giving good counsel is to ask questions. Be sure that you have the information needed to form a proper opinion. When we only hear part of the story or some significant details are left out it is impossible to give good advice on how to deal with any given situation. This is why you need to clarify any information given and ask relevant questions. With a better understanding of the issue the advice you give will be more fitting.

Ask your friend what he or she thinks or feels. Often, people know deep down how they want to handle a situation or what is the “right” thing to do. They simply go to others asking for advice when what they really want is to have their own choice confirmed as the correct option. Before you start doling out your thoughts on the subject, ask them what they think or what they believe should be done. Many times they already have the answer, they just need someone to encourage them to follow through.

When giving advice we always need to look at all angles and remain unbiased. If presented with a set of circumstances where your friend is obviously in the wrong you will be doing him or her no favors by taking their side. As difficult as it may be, you should advise him/her that the fault does not seem to be with the other person and encourage them to look within themselves. Be supportive and refrain from accusing him or her of doing wrong.

Another factor in giving good advice is to offer a couple of different scenarios. “If you say this, then such and such could happen” or “You could say nothing and the result will be….” This may help your friend to look at the different angles and play out the possible consequences in his/her mind.

Ultimately listening to your friend is the most important thing. Sometimes friends are not really looking for advice but simply want a sounding board. Be there for them and offer emotional support as they try to work things out in their own mind. Offer ideas or options that are situation appropriate. Do not be offended if he or she doesn’t take the advice you gave. Remember you are only offering your opinion not instructions they must follow.

[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Some people like my advice so much that they frame it upon the wall instead of using it.” author=”Gordon R. Dickson”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”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.” author=”Harry S Truman”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Stupid people always think they are right. Wise people listen to advice.” author=”Proverb quotes”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” author=”Anne Frank”/]

Moral Discourse in Psychotherapy: A Peaceable Alternative

A. Dueck, a professor of psychology presented a paper at the national convention for the Christian Association of Psychological studies (April, 2002, Moral Discourse in Psychotherapy: A Peaceable Alternative) in which he stated: “While ethnic particularity continues to occupy a prominent place in the American psychological literature, the religious question has been largely divorced from its ethnic referent, and until recently was relegated to the furthest margins of psychotherapeutic practice. The silencing of an integrated ethno-religious voice [those people who express a particular religious belief system that guides their lives] has contributed to a feeling of disempowerment for clinicians and clients alike. In North America, therapists continue to avoid religious issues for fear of being criticized for “value imposition.” In a therapy void of ethno-religious sensitivity, the clinician’s silence regarding cherished issues of religious faith and ethnic identity may be experienced as invalidation by the client.

[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong-these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history.” author=”Sir Winston Churchill”/]

Wise Counsel

Long ago, Solomon wrote, “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14).

Could this ancient proverb offer insight not only for hurting people but also for the family members and friends who are called upon to help them?

Overwhelming problems

So many of us have within our own families and close friends those who are living with the pain and confusion of addictions, Alzheimer’s, autism, clinical depression, marital abuse, or life-threatening eating disorders. We can only imagine how many others are struggling with posttraumatic stress, gender confusion, panic attacks, schizophrenia, or obsessive-compulsive disorders.

The sting of criticism

It’s important for us to think together about how we respond to those who are struggling with issues of emotional and mental health. If we are not careful, we can unintentionally add to their pain by suggesting that their struggle is merely their own creation and having no underlying organic or physical cause.

But how can we determine whether there are physical factors at work? How many of us understand the intimate connection between body and soul when it comes to trauma and memories that sear the soul like a hot iron? How many of us have the insight or time to deal with those whose hearts and minds have been devastated by pornography, sexual abuse or rape, the frontlines of war, or a long history of domestic violence?

If our intent is to find help that reflects the wisdom of God, what do we lose if we ask a doctor to look for organic factors that might be clouding our minds? Or what part of our faith suffers if we ask professional specialists to help us explore our thoughts, emotions, and choices?

No friend, troubled individual, or family should have to bear alone the weight of spiritual problems complicated by the possibility of real mental, emotional, and physical illness. Nor can we safely assume that our desire to trust God needs to be kept separate from the combined counsel of pastoral and health professionals.

Yes, there are dangers. It has always been possible to get bad advice that does not reflect true wisdom.

Along the way, any doctor, counselor, or spiritual leader might unintentionally mislead us. Yet that’s why we need to pay special attention to the wisdom of Solomon. It is because bad advice can come from some of our most trusted sources that we need to remember that , “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14).

[do action=”vfquote” quote=”He who can take advice is sometimes superior to him who can give it.” author=”Karl von Knebel“/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”I cannot give any scientist of any age better advice than this: the intensity of a conviction that a hypothesis is true has no bearing over whether it is true or not.” author=”Sir Peter Medawar, ”Advice to a Young Scientist”, 1979″/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=” “It is a mistake to suppose that men succeed through success; they much oftener succeed through failures. Precept, study, advice, and example could never have taught them so well as failure has done.” —–Samuel Smiles ” author=”Samuel Smiles”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Advice is like snow; the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon, and the deeper it sinks into, the mind.” author=”Samuel Taylor Coleridge”/]

Wise Counsel

Definition

Wise counsel is a special gift of advice that can enable the young generation of individuals to avoid some of the poor decisions and mistakes of their elders. It is absolutely necessary, because poor decisions and mistakes have consequences that affect the lives of others beyond those who just made the poor decisions and mistakes. Sometimes the consequences are very extensive and can last for a long time. Most of us can probably think of at least one example of a poor decision that affected a wide circle of individuals, perhaps even for generations.

Wise counsel must come from elders

It is the older generation of men and women who have the opportunity and the responsibility to share their wisdom with the young generation. This is how children and youth learn. This is how progress and improvements in living are made over a span of time. This is how any bad cycle of severe consequences from poor decisions and mistakes is broken or halted. It is the elders who must tell the children and youth “No!” or “that is not a good idea” when these children and youth seek to implement some dangerous or poor course of action.

Parents are usually the first set of elder counselors that anyone has in this process, and they may have this particular role and responsibility for years without much assistance from anyone else. It is nice if grandparents are around, because they can provide even a bigger frame of wisdom from a longer span of years than that which would come just from the recent generation of the parents.

Wise counsel is not always well received

Of course children and youth are not always going to like to hear “No!” or any other negative directive in regard to what they want to do. Other children and youth and even older individuals in their circles of friends may be encouraging them to go ahead with a particular course of action, to make the decision that they desire to make. Elders, including parents, do not exercise their responsibilities in a neutral environment or even one that is wisely designed or managed. There may be too many consequences of previous poor decisions and mistakes still around to make the environment of the children and youth completely safe and wholesome. And children and youth like to argue that the changes of time over the course of years invalidates the wisdom of their elders because the situation is different now than it was then and the decision that they seek to implement will not have the same consequences that it had years before.

And not all elders are wise all of the time

Some elders even seem to believe that time changes situations so that what was a poor decision years previously may be OK now, that the consequences of a chosen course of action were not as bad as they initially seemed to be. And some elders are very good at rationalizing their poor decisions and minimizing the consequences of their mistakes. Some elders still do not like to hear negative comments from others, particularly if it comes from someone in the younger generation. And most of us elders can be overly influenced by our emotions, if we are not careful.

Wise counsel is more thoughtful than good advice

A person can probably get a lot of “good advice” at the race track regarding what horse to bet on in the next race, but the best “wise counsel” that he or she might get from a mature friend is to “go home and pay off your credit card debt”. What is often passed off as “good advice”, like what one might get at a race track, is probably too often only popular opinion.

Wise counsel will come from individuals who know the difference between:

  • what is ultimately good and what is just currently popular,
  • what is really valuable and what is just cheap,
  • a smart investment and just a quick profit,
  • what is earned and what is only borrowed,
  • what is achieved by hard work and what is just lucky,
  • being happy and just having fun,
  • what is beautiful and what just looks attractive,
  • what is ultimately right and what may just be legal,
  • what is really a generous gift and what is a selfish token,
  • a sincere apology and a weak excuse,
  • what is true and what is just a matter of opinion,
  • what is to be hard sought and what is to be tolerated,
  • when help is appropriate and when it should be withheld to encourage one to struggle,
  • love and lust,
  • what is really dangerous and what may just be somewhat risky,
  • what is worth fighting against and what one should run from,
  • what is a legitimate source of hope and what is a technique of mass marketing,
  • a real miracle and a magic trick,
  • what is wise and what is foolish,
  • what is a divine blessing and what is a demonic temptation,
  • what can last forever and what is only temporary,

Guarding “the course” of one’s life is one of the benefits that wise elders can give to youth of the next generation through this gift of wise counsel.

The need for wise counsel

There certainly cannot be any doubt that the youth and a significant number of adults in the United States, and probably many of them in the rest of the world, need the benefits of wise counsel in the course of the lives that they are pursuing and the decisions that they are making and considering. Many of the very basic foundations of social order in the United States as well as in other countries of the world are being drastically changed or severely threatened. It may be too late to save some social structures from collapsing because of years of poor decisions that have been made in their development, but it is never too late to give the gift of wise counsel to those youth and children and others that you can reach. This gift is really good, because it does have eternal benefits.
[do action=”vfquote” quote=”I have lived some thirty years on this planet, and I have yet to hear the first syllable of valuable or even earnest advice from my seniors.” author=”Henry David Thoreau”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.” author=”G. K. Chesterton”/]

Why should young people listen to advice from their elders?

  1. Listening to the advice of older people has kept the human race alive for thousands of years. It’s only about the past 200 years that most people have gone to anyone other than their elders for solutions to life’s problems. Anthropologists tell us that in prehistoric times, the accumulated wisdom of older people was a key to human survival. Not only did the old improve the survival chances of their grandchildren by caring for them and finding them food; they also were the source of tried and tested experience, the true “elders” to whom group members would go in time of crisis. Consulting older people is really a “natural” thing for humans to do.
  2. Older people have usually gone through tough life experiences that younger people today can only imagine. Their lives have often included “Crisis of Limitations”. These are situations that cannot be undone and are nonetheless faced with consciousness and resolve. Situations like illness, aging, failure, oppression, loss of a job, crushing poverty, drugs and alcohol abuse, loss of a loved one, and marriage problems. It is precisely these situations that lead to wisdom. This unique perspective is a valuable lens through which younger people can view their own lives.
  3. Older people often offer alternatives to conventional wisdom. There’s a paradox here: this point is simultaneously why we should seek out elder wisdom and also why younger people may not pay attention. Older people’s perspectives often shake up conventional wisdom. Conventional wisdom is what younger members of a society learn while they are growing up. Conventional wisdom reinforces the values of the current culture. And it’s very hard to see beyond conventional wisdom, even if it makes us live smaller and less happy lives. Elders often reject modern cultures conventional wisdom and point to an alternative wisdom. This alternative wisdom defies a single categorization; sometimes it’s what we think of as “liberal” (the elders endorse religious tolerance, for example, and they reject materialistic worldviews) and sometimes “conservative” (such as proposing that marriage should be seen as a lifelong commitment). But it is in the challenge to the conventional worldview that the true value of their wisdom lays. The elders force us to examine our assumptions and make more conscious decisions about our own scripts for happiness. Elders often ask the toughest questions.

The accumulated wisdom of older people — our “experts” on living — can serve as a helpful guide for younger people. They bring experiential knowledge of just about every problem a human being can go through. People from their teens to their forties will find that the roadmap for life elders provide can help them take a new look at their own situations and to choose new ways of living that will make them happier. We just have to be willing to ask and listen.
[do action=”vfquote” quote=”A word to the wise ain’t necessary, it’s the stupid ones who need the advice.” author=”Bill Cosby”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”I have yet to hear a man ask for advice on how to combine marriage and a career.” author=”Gloria Steinem”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”The true secret of giving advice is, after you have honestly given it, to be perfectly indifferent whether it is taken or not, and never persist in trying to set people right.” author=”Logan Pearsall Smith”/]

Athena The Mentor

Who is She?

Most people don’t think of Mentor as a she, or a he, or any individual. Rather, mentoring is today a widely-recognized function in business and social life. Companies assign mentors to new employees. New teachers, nurses, and doctors get mentors. Mentors work with disadvantaged children in various private and public social service agencies. Some enterprising families even seek out mentors for their “next generation.”

Mentor is an unusual case: a complex literary character that made the leap from fiction to fact. For the original Mentor was a poetic “she” masquerading as a “he.”

Mentor first appears in Homer’s Odyssey. Composed nearly three millennia ago the poem narrates the wanderings of the Greek king Odysseus as he tries to return home from the battlefields of Troy. It also tells of the travails of his son, Telemachus.

Telemachus had grown up without a father in a home besieged by rival chiefs. At the beginning of the poem, Athena, the goddess of wisdom and strategy, appears to Telemachus, first in the guise of a merchant named Mentes and then, more enduringly, in the form of an old friend of Odysseus named Mentor. Odysseus had left Mentor to keep watch over his home and family—a task the old fellow had failed at. But the goddess, shaped like Mentor, helps Telemachus escape his enemies, travel to the mainland in search of his father, and then return home to join Odysseus in driving the rebellious lords from their home.

Twenty-five centuries later, Francois Fenelon, a French educator and tutor to the son of Louis XIV, published The Adventures of Telemachus, a novelistic account of the young prince’s voyages. In Fenelon’s tale, Athena as Mentor plays a much larger role than in the Odyssey, continually advising and admonishing the prince on how to act. It is this “Mentor” who, in the hands of later thinkers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, became the model for the mentors who advise the young and the not-so-young all over our world today.

What Does She Teach Us About Wise Counsel?

Because of its popularity, particularly in business, mentoring is one way that many people directly experience something like wise counsel. Such mentoring does not bear much resemblance to the activity of Homer’s Mentor. However, precisely because it seems so foreign, the literary origin of mentoring can perhaps teach us something about the practice we have inherited.

One obvious feature of Mentor the character is that he is old. Odysseus chose him to watch his home in part, no doubt, due to his age and experience. Age and experience are, likewise, the primary qualifications for many mentors today. In general, because age implies some experience, age is often assumed as a stand-in for wisdom.

Mentor is also a friend of Odysseus, Telemachus’ father. This familiarity gets him (or the concealed goddess Athena) “in the door,” so to speak. Many other people might have done a better job than Mentor in guarding Odysseus’ interests. But they were not known to him or available. Mentor was.

The man Mentor’s failure suggests that age and familiarity, while commonly accepted qualifications for counsel, may come with limitations. (Age and experience offers the appearance, but not the guarantee, of wisdom. The poem suggests Mentor may have failed precisely because of his old age.) Our chances at finding wise counsel are often conditioned by who our family is, who our friends are, where we work, and who we know. Availability, comfort, and trust hem us in. People often think of trust as something positive, that cements the foundation for counsel. But it is also limiting. Perhaps the objectively best counselor for your situation is a young person, in another family, or in a competitor’s company, or in a hostile land.

These limitations may explain the most surprising feature of Mentor the literary character: he is not himself. He is the goddess Athena in disguise. Nor is disguise something incidental to Athena: Homer calls the goddess of wisdom a “contriver” and a “liar” (Odyssey XIII). Today, mentors are encouraged to be authentic and honest with mentees. Athena does the opposite. But she does display good-will towards Telemachus, so that even when he begins to suspect that she’s hiding something, he still takes her counsel. He judges that the fruits of counsel are more important than its authenticity.

What are those fruits? Mentors today are typically understood to help someone adjust to a new role or circumstances, such as a new job. In contrast, Athena helps Telemachus grow up. When Telemachus first meets her, in Odyssey I, he is an “unhappy boy, daydreaming” of his father. Athena, as Mentor, admonishes him to “be brave, for you are a child no longer.” She “put a new spirit in him.” Mentor Athena’s work is not to help Telemachus adjust but to help him evolve. She kindles his courage. She helps him cease to be a boy and become a man.

In this crucial respect Homer’s Mentor differs from Fenelon’s—and from most mentors we encounter today. Fenelon’s mentor helps the young prince learn “the rules of the road,” one might say. He (she) is full of speeches and maxims. He is much more a teacher than is Homer’s Athena. Fenelon’s Mentor appears to have a clear goal: to prepare Telemachus to succeed, in particular at the job of being king. Homer’s Mentor has a different goal: to set Telemachus onto the path of becoming a man.

Investigating who mentor is thus brings us to fundamental questions: Is success the same as living well? What does “living well” mean? Is it something that can be taught? The story of Mentor also suggests that true mentoring cannot be arranged. The mentee needs to be ready, maybe even more than ready. The mentor must combine familiarity and age with, perhaps, some surprises. Above all, effective mentoring requires some quality that—whether we call it divinity, fate, or fortune—is not simply in our hands.