Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Should You, or Shouldn't You?

Many of you, by now, will know that one of the things I do here and there is facilitate a Focus on the Family parenting course ('Starting Points') which is aimed at the 0-4 years. This past month I've had cause to ponder the subject of 'advice'.

In many areas of life, we come to situations where we seem to be the recipient of a lot of well-meaning 'advice'. It might be parenting, perhaps it's regarding a medical dilemma. It might be career advice...how to deal with a sticky situation. All kinds of things. With all that advice, there are also times where we might end up being criticised as well. I'm sure you have a multitude of other such times where you've experienced what I'm talking about here.

One of the things 'Starting Points' reminded me of, this time around, is that there is great value in sharing our stories with one another. I have decided that I far prefer this version of walking through life with other people, than the "this is what I did, and it worked so it should work for you too". The older I get, the more comfortable I am with how I do things and why. I'm also more inclined to feel comfortable saying, "Yeah, you know what? That just doesn't work for me".

I finally figured out that I really value the sharing of stories between people when I studied Genesis a few years back, and the next year studied Romans. Genesis was rich and filled with things that I could take and learn from. Things that I could apply. I found that through reading about the lives of the people in Genesis that so much of what they went through meant a lot to me. In Romans, the bear facts type of information delivery just overloaded me and gave me very little in the way of a frame of reference for how any of it actually related to me in a day to day way.
I have a friend who is often heard to say "give me your wisdom about....". I love how she puts that. To me, that says that she's interested in opinions and stories so that she can make decisions and choices based on a wide variety of people's perspectives and experiences.

So...who's with me? Let's enjoy the stories of others. Stories about how they do life. How the journey looks and feels for them and what it teaches them. Let's listen carefully and learn well. Let's not dictate and subject those around us to the "this is what worked for me, so that's how you should do it too" kind of advice giving.


belinda said...

Hi Tracey,

I am very much of the "your mileage may vary" camp as well.

I probably don't generally tell stories as such. Nothing against stories it just is not really the way I communicate easily in a verbal context. That said I do make an effort to present the reasons why something did or didn't work for me.

I figure that gives the person listening a chance to compare their situation more fairly against my own. I do my best to communicate that the way I achived something is just one way to do it but I know sometimes that part of the message gets a little lost in translation.

Kind Regards

Left-Handed Housewife said...

I couldn't agree with you more! When I was pregnant the first time, I got so much unsolicited advice I wanted to tear my hair out. But my friend Kate, she just told me stories of what her pregnancies had been like, and what the early weeks of newborn parenting had been like for her... never suggesting that my experience would be exactly--or anything--like hers. I try to do the same now when I can. And if I do offer advice (which is pretty rare), I always offer the caveat, "this is just from my experience; yours may be different."

I'm reading a really good book about King David right now by Eugene Peterson, who suggests that most of God's revelation to us in the Bible comes through stories. (I'm like you--I'd much rather read Genesis than Romans!)


Tracy said...

Belinda, that sounds a lot like 'story sharing' to me. Not so much the long detailed novel kind....but sharing how your journey went, why it worked, what you loved....what you struggled with.

LOL Frances, I don't even tell Miss Sunshine pregnancy/labour stories. She was a horror and I decided long ago that there is no reason to scare new mothers with that LOL.