Actually, like most of the articles in this “discerning a calling” series, the question is relevant to decision making generally. I want to suggest that who we go to for advice (and when we go) will shape the advice we get and may tell us a lot about how far we have already gone down the road of making a decision.
Sometimes, we genuinely are undecided. We face a completely new situation with various, equally attractive (or unattractive) options in front of us. We weigh up the pros and cons and call up a few people to hear their thoughts. We pray. Then we come to a decision.
However, sometimes, we know what we would like to do and sometimes we have a gut instinct for what is the right or the best way forward. Sometimes the two things go together and then it’s nice and straight forward. However, sometimes those two things compete. We want to do something but something in our gut – or some objective fact sits uneasily with that. And that’s when I tend to find that we confuse getting advice with getting ourselves off the hook.
Here’s how it happens:
1. I have a good feel for how different people will respond to different types of issues. I know who is likely to take a hard line on something and who is going to take a softer approach
2. I know what things make different people tick. I know what buttons to push and to get them onside.
3. I know how to frame the questions and I know who will simply answer the questions and respond to the situation as I frame it. I also know who is likely to probe further and who is going to ask the awkward questions.
The risk then is that I am not actually seeking out advice. I am seeking support for my position. You know, I may even turn up to talk with the awkward friend at some point but I will be tempted to do that right at the end, when it’s too late really to change the decision and when I’ve marshalled a whole army of supporters who I can claim have encouraged me down this root.
Not only that but if this is my mindset then there’s a good chance that even if the people I do pick to speak with ask awkward questions or say uncomfortable things then my mind will learn to filter those things out or turn them around to something more positive. I probably won’t even realise that I’m doing it so I won’t consciously be deceiving myself or others. I really will believe that I have been given that advice.
Here’s a better way:
1. Seek out the person(s) you know are likely to ask probing questions and are the most likely to challenge you.
2. Seek them out early to give you time to hear them and for their advice to genuinely inform the direction things take
3. Give them as much information as possible. In fact, don’t make assumptions about what is relevant, let them make that judgement
4. Trust them. Trust their motives. Believe the Scriptural truth that the wounds of a friend are faithful. Be ready for them to disagree with you.
5. Be ready to change your mind
6. Be ready to be surprised -sometimes you don’t get the answer you were expecting.