Do You Always Get the Point?
THE older brother was furiously angry. The object of his rage was his younger brother. And its cause? His brother had been accorded recognition that he himself had been denied. As his anger grew, a wise acquaintance counseled him to control his hurt feelings. Otherwise something bad would happen. But the man ignored the good advice. Instead, tragically, he killed his younger brother.
That man was Cain, eldest son of our first parents, Adam and Eve. Cain killed his younger brother Abel when Jehovah accepted Abel’s sacrifice and rejected Cain’s. The wise acquaintance was none other than Jehovah God, who offered the loving counsel that Cain rejected. As a result, murder invaded the fledgling human family, and Cain was sentenced to live the rest of his long life as a rejected outcast. What a sad result from failing to get the point of counsel!—Genesis 4:3-16.
Many centuries after Cain, King David of Israel committed adultery with Bath-sheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, and the woman came to be pregnant. David tried to handle the problem by urging Uriah to go in to his wife. When he refused, David arranged for Uriah to die on the battlefield and then married Bath-sheba to prevent her having to die as an adulteress. A prophet of God came to David and brought to his attention the seriousness of what he had done. David soon grasped the point of the counsel. Thus, although for the rest of his life he suffered the consequences of that crime, Jehovah accepted his heartfelt repentance.—2 Samuel 11:1–12:14.
These two historical examples show the importance of listening to counsel. It can make the difference between success and failure, happiness and sorrow, even life and death. No wonder the Bible says: “The way of the foolish one is right in his own eyes, but the one listening to counsel is wise.” (Proverbs 12:15) Yet it is not easy to listen to counsel. Why is this? How can we develop the good attitude of King David in this regard and avoid the bad example of Cain?
Quite often people find it hard to listen to counsel because they cannot accept the fact that they need help. Or if they do, they cannot see why they should accept counsel from this person. Really, this is pride, and a little reasoning can help to overcome it. For example, Paul said: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) That tells us that everyone needs counsel from time to time. It also tells us that even the ones who offer us counsel have shortcomings. No one is exempt. So do not let another person’s perceived shortcomings prevent you from accepting any help that he may be in a position to give.
Jesus stressed the need to fight pride when he told his followers: “Unless you turn around and become as young children, you will by no means enter into the kingdom of the heavens.” (Matthew 18:3) Young children get a sense of security when their parents counsel and guide them. Do you feel the same way when someone counsels you, realizing that such counsel proves that one’s love and concern for you? (Hebrews 12:6) King David, whose humble willingness to accept counsel opened the way for Jehovah to accept his repentance, was moved to write: “Should the righteous one strike me, it would be a loving-kindness; and should he reprove me, it would be oil upon the head.”—Psalm 141:5.
Such a meek attitude can help us when the counsel we receive touches those areas where there are no set rules. For example, if we are counseled that our grooming or manner of dress is stumbling some in the congregation, it may take real humility to get the point. Nevertheless, doing so would be following the apostle Paul’s admonition: “Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person.”—1 Corinthians 10:24.
Happily, Jehovah has provided the Bible, which abounds with the finest of counsel. In fact, the word “counsel” in its various forms is found therein more than 170 times. Also, he provides loving shepherds to assist us in applying this counsel. The family arrangement is another provision from Jehovah to render loving assistance by means of counsel from parents who are aware of their responsibilities. Let us always humbly listen to such counsel.
“Be Swift About Hearing”
James 1:19 advises: “Every man must be swift about hearing, slow about speaking, slow about wrath.” This is particularly true when we are receiving counsel. Why? For one thing, is it not true that we are often aware of our own shortcomings, and it does not come as a complete surprise when a concerned friend points them out and offers counsel? It surely makes it easier for all concerned if we quickly discern what he is trying to say and humbly accept the loving help.
When a friend approaches us with counsel, we should remember that he or she may be quite nervous. It is not easy to give counsel. Perhaps the would-be counselor has given much thought to the words or approach to be used. An elder may begin the conversation by commending us for some area of Christian service in which we have been doing well. But that should not cause us to question his motives when he goes on to offer counsel. The one offering counsel may speak in an indirect way at first, trying not to be tactless or blunt. Our being discerning enough to get the point quickly will help the counselor in his task and perhaps spare us hurt feelings.
Sometimes the counselor may use an example or an illustration to help us get the point. One young man had not yet become a serious wrongdoer, but he was on an errant course. In reasoning with him, an older Christian man picked up a ruler that was lying on the desk. Flexing the ruler in his hands, he asked: “If I bend a ruler like this, can I still measure a straight line with it?” The young man got the point. He had been trying to bend the rules to fit his own desires. The illustration helped him to follow the wise advice of Proverbs 19:20: “Listen to counsel and accept discipline.”
Recognize Indirect Counsel
Such discernment may help us to benefit from indirect counsel, even without the intervention of someone else. This happened in the case of a young man in Portugal. He was studying the Bible and obtained a copy of the book Your Youth—Getting the Best out of It. Just a few days later, he revealed that he had already read the book three times and been helped by it. In what way? Here is what the youth said:
“I had no real hope for the future, but chapter 2 [“Why You Can Look to the Future With Confidence”] has given my life meaning. Also, I have masturbated for some years now; no one ever told me this was displeasing to God as well as harmful to me. After reading chapter 5 [“Masturbation and Homosexuality”], I made a decision to discontinue this practice. Chapter 7 [“Your Clothes and Appearance Talk—About You”] helped me to value my personal appearance, and as you can see, I’ve already had a haircut.”
He continued: “For years I’ve smoked. Chapter 15 [“Drugs—Key to Real Living?”] straightened me out on that score. I have prayed to Jehovah, and since Sunday I’ve not smoked another cigarette. You know, for some time I have been having sexual relations with my girlfriend, but chapter 18 [“Does Sexual Morality Make Sense?”] brought to my attention God’s point of view on this subject. I already spoke with her about this matter, and she decided to end our relationship.”
What a joy it is to see such changes in so short a time in the life of a young person! What made it possible? The fact that he was able to recognize what he read as counsel that applied to him personally.
Heeding Counsel Brings Benefits
Counsel—whether it comes to us indirectly through the Bible or Bible literature, or directly from a friend—can be beneficial. This is seen in the experience of a father who sought help from spiritually older men in his congregation because his 18-year-old son was not responding to his disciplinary efforts. The Christian elders lovingly reasoned with the father, who had a zeal for serving God but apparently needed more balance in dealing with his family.
Paul’s words were read to him: “And you, fathers, do not be irritating your children, but go on bringing them up in the discipline and mental-regulating of Jehovah.” (Ephesians 6:4) The father was asked to reflect: Had the way he had tried to encourage his son, even though he was well meaning, actually been irritating the boy? Had it been a case of expecting the son to fall in line with the father’s own zeal for Christian meetings and service without trying to implant a love of such things in his heart? Had he helped his son to ‘learn to fear Jehovah his God’?—Deuteronomy 31:12, 13.
The father listened to the counsel and applied it. The result? His 18-year-old son is now attending Christian meetings, and the father is conducting a weekly Bible study with him. And as the father commented, “We now have a much better father-son relationship.” Yes, both father and son got the point of the counsel.
There is no doubt that we all make mistakes and need counsel from time to time. (Proverbs 24:6) If we get the point and heed wise counsel, we will enjoy many blessings. Among them will be the most precious blessing of all: cultivating and maintaining a meaningful, personal relationship with our loving heavenly Father, Jehovah. Thus, we will echo the words of King David: “I shall bless Jehovah, who has given me advice.”—Psalm 16:7.