Saturday, December 01, 2012


What's the difference between a back seat driver and a coach? A coach's opinion is solicited and valued. A back seat driver's wisdom, however clever and useful, is nothing more than annoying noise.

Ogden Nash (or was it Piet Hein?) counseled:
Don't take advice
at any price!
That to you
is my advice.

I would add to that: Don't give advice unless you are being handsomely reimbursed and have good malpractice insurance!

People who seek advice are generally looking for affirmation for decisions they have already made. Then, if things go wrong later, they can blame the adviser instead of taking responsibility for their own behavior.

People who give advice for free claim to have the best intentions, but their hidden agenda is generally world domination.  I know.  I am one of those people.  No matter how much I protest to the contrary, I secretly believe that the world would run perfectly if everyone did things MY way.

My mother told me that she felt guilty when she didn't follow my advice. The law in our family of origin was, IF YOU LOVE ME, DO WHAT I WANT. I told her that henceforth, I would try to abstain from offering unsolicited counsel and charge her 25 cents for any solicited advice . If she paid for it, it was hers to use or not as she saw fit. I made 50 cents on that agreement before we forgot about it, and we got a giggle or two.

I often find myself in a position where it seems imperative to repeat my standard warning: I am a person with strong opinions, and inclined to express them forcefully, but you don't have to do what I want just to please me. You are responsible for your own decisions and their consequences, so you have to do what you think is best for you.

In my early days of parish work, a lovely lady with no church affiliation consulted me about the fact that she was living with a man she was not married to. He was a recovering alcoholic with only a short period of sobriety, and she didn't want to be trapped in a relationship with him if he fell off the wagon. After hearing her out, I said I understood her concerns, and perhaps it would be better to wait before making a radical commitment.

She stared at me with horrified eyes, demanded WHAT KIND OF MINISTER'S WIFE ARE YOU? and sallied forth to tie the knot ASAP. I hope it worked out well for them.

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