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Advice

You need to be prudent when seeking advice. On the one hand, there are some people who would never dream of asking another’s help or taking them into their confidence in trying to reach a major decision. This is their loss. Nobody has a monopoly of wisdom, and the insight of others may open up new avenues of thought that would otherwise never occur to you.

On the other hand, you find the other extreme: people who distrust their own judgement so much that they allow others to make their decisions for them. This is a danger for people who by nature are unsure of their own judgement. It can happen especially when the person giving advice comes across as forceful and all-knowing. The temptation in that case is to give in to the other person’s supposedly superior insight.

In the end, of course, all of us have to own our choices in life, and the responsibility of making our decisions cannot be handed over to another. Each one of us has to trust our own inner light – our conscience – as our ultimate authority. So, seeking advice is not about handing over our most personal responsibility to another, and we should probably be slow to trust the advice of someone who seems to know it all and have all the answers.

Seeking advice is about inviting comments and reflections from people who know you well and who can draw on the wisdom they have gleaned from their own experience. It is a way of enriching your considerations, so that your choices and decisions have an added depth. Good advisors will never put pressure on you or try to influence your final decision. Rather, they will help open up your understanding of the issues involved, so that your decision will come about with greater clarity.

Other people, then, have a role in our decision-making, even if it’s a subsidiary one. St John of the Cross was very hard on those who would take no advice from others, saying that people who only have themselves to guide them have fools as guides! St. Ignatius too places a high value on discussing our lives with an astute and wise companion, especially in times of significant choices.