I remember that morning so vividly because I was a complete moron. One of the women in my Bible study broke down for the 100th time about...well, I don't remember what it was this week because she broke down every week.
As a 25-year-old, I knew everything there was to know about life. I had a college degree, a few years experience working in the news industry, I had read the Bible from cover-to-cover, so obviously I was the wise sage.
My attempt at consoling her was this, "I lift weights to make me stronger--to build muscle. This experience, too, as heavy as it is, will make you stronger."
After I said it, I knew it came out wrong. And I knew it wasn't what she needed to hear at that moment. When someone is crying over something, the last thing that person wants to hear is "be strong." The moment to advise "be strong" comes a little later.
Did that moment teach me not to give advice because I knew nothing? No. I continued to do so for many years. I would give advice to codependent boyfriends who would listen but not heed my advice. I would advise people on their faith journey even though I was still confused about my own. Any wonder why I was drawn to the teaching profession?
As I grew older, I realized that each person's experience is unique, and each person has to learn from their own mistakes. I might share my experience with those who are going through something similar, but I can only speak of the patterns that emerged in my life over time.
I see a lot of people without much life experience doing the exact same thing. They tout products and lifestyles on social media that sell ideas that don't stand the test of time. They promote idealistic memes that inspire for a moment, but they're not resilient. When you really think about them, they really don't provide tangible ways to improve your life over time.
Only you know how to do that.
Last week, Bill Maher addressed ageism in the U.S. He criticized the fact that it's not ok to make fun of someone's weight, sex, race, or creed, but it's the "last acceptable prejudice" to criticize someone for being old. In the U.S., we somehow admire the young and beautiful--and take their advice--yet we eschew what the older generations might have to contribute. He says,
If they say you learn something new every day, it stands to reason someone who's logged 10,000 more days is going to be in general a little wiser. Life is a series of patterns. You don't see it at first because it's not a pattern. Yet by the third time, 'yeah, ok, I get it now.'
That morning in Bible study was the beginning of my own pattern. I like control, and it pains me to see people live their lives out of control. Therefore, I would give the solid advice to practice a little control.
Although that's perfectly good advice to practice discipline and control, it's not always the best advice for certain moments and certain people. Some people, in their moments of despair, just need to hear, "It's going to be ok."
A "life coach" or "influencer" won't teach you that--experience will. So many of these people think you just want to be "young and beautiful" rather than wise, and they want to sell you something that reinforces the "young and beautiful" ideal.
Wisdom can't be bought. It's acquired through time.
Sure, the younger generations like to poke fun of us for being "old" or "over the hill," but remember how ridiculous and smug we were at that age. Don't feel like you have to go by the current trends because if you keep stuff in the closet for 20 years, they will just come back in style again. Let's hope "skinny jeans" never make a comeback, though.
And if you feel "unhip" because you can't keep up with current technology, remember that you got by for so many years without it. Maher tells us, "You think someone [who's] 80 is hopeless because they can't use an iPhone, maybe the one who's hopeless is the one who can't stop using it."
So if I were to give some advice to anyone these days, it's to bypass the advice of anyone under the age of 40--unless they have their Ph.D. in clinical psychology or their M.D. in psychiatry.
Instead, look at your life with a little more awareness. Look at the patterns in your life. Don't be afraid to admit the mistakes you've made because once you admit them, you can correct them.
Listen less to the "advice" of the younger generations, and listen more to the traditions and teachings that have stood the test of time. No idea is really "new," it's just been recycled. And you don't have to buy them from someone under 40. Most of the time, they come for free.