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Marriage and Family

The Fate of the Bird

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05/01/2012 - I once heard a story of a small village in which lived a very wise old man. The villagers would often come to him for advice and his wisdom was highly regarded. A couple of young men in this village conspired to put his wisdom to the test and designed a way in which to trick him. They caught a small bird and planned to ask the old man if he could tell if their plan was to protect the bird or crush it. The plan was to do the opposite of what the old man guessed, and thus prove his wisdom to be fallible. They knocked on his door, and when he answered, one young man held out his hands in which he cupped the small bird. They asked the old man if he could tell their plans for the bird, whether it was to be protected or crushed. After a moment's thought, the old man stated, "The fate of the bird is as you will it to be."

In the last article I mentioned a few "barometers" which can be useful in helping us determine if we are making wise decisions in our life. Receiving wise counsel is one way to help us pursue healthy lifestyles. I debated whether or not to tell this story as I don't remember the source. However, the story does illustrate a few points about wise counsel.

1. Wise counsel should be reputable. In the story, the old man was reputed for his wisdom. When writing research papers through my college career, the sources from which I drew my research was of utmost importance. When seeking counsel, you are doing a form of research for your life. Make sure you are using a quality source. A person who has struggled to maintain a healthy relationship may not be the best resource for your own relationships. A reputable person does not have to be a professional; in fact, many professionals are of ill repute. They also don't have to have been perfect, none of us are. A good resource shows stability in their own lives, ability to take responsibility for their own failings and willingness to learn from mistakes so as not to continue unhealthy patterns.

2. Wise counsel guides you into thinking, rather than just telling you what to do. If your child comes to you hungry, will you give him a fish or teach him how to fish so that he can feed himself and his family for the rest of his life. Wise counsel does not just tell you what to do. This minimizes the problems and does not help you make healthier decision down the road. Someone may give you their opinion on how to handle situations. This can be okay if followed by reasoning which can help you think from a different perspective and make healthier choices.

3. Wise counsel displays insight. This goes hand-in-hand with the second point. Notice that the old man in the story did not simply select one of the two options. He displayed awareness as to what would happen, even though it was not spoken. Wise counsel will display that same type of insight. Rather than simply choosing for you which option should be taken, insight can see the bigger picture and offer guidance to reach some of the longer term goals.

4. It is up to you to determine what to do with the counsel. "The fate of the bird is as you will it to be." In the end, you make the decisions regarding what it is you were seeking counsel for. After receiving some counsel, take some time to think through what was discussed. If you have been stuck in a destructive pattern, though uncomfortable to do something different, you may decide to heed the counsel you were given. You may also decide to step back and ask yourself if that person was a quality source. Did they guide your thinking or just tell you what to do? Did they seem insightful?

All of us need someone who can help us learn how to make healthy decisions and follow through with them, even if they are uncomfortable. If we follow the idea of "I know what's best for me" then we are saying that we are the source for what is right and healthy. I don't believe that any of us can look honestly at ourselves and say that we can be the source for what is best. When left to our own devices; we typically choose junk food over healthy eating, idleness over hard work, selfish gratifications instead of loving sacrifice and avoidance versus commitment. We all need wise counsel.

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