Seeking Guidance

A newborn baby operates on instinct. She doesn’t decide when she cries or sleeps. He’s at the mercy of the adults in his life to make all his decisions for him. But as she grows older, she becomes increasingly independent. And part of that independence is learning to make your own decisions.

The good parent teaches his child to make decisions wisely and responsibly. This can seem like an overwhelming task because making decisions isn’t easy even for grown-ups. How do we teach our children to be wise and responsible when we so often fail at this ourselves?

Some people are very decisive while others are indecisive. I tend toward the latter. In my younger years I never wanted to make a decision because I was always afraid that I would make the wrong one. When I was asked what I wanted to do, I would say, “I don’t know; you decide.” That was my way of protecting myself from another person’s displeasure. I thought if I never made a decision, it would always be the other person’s fault if it went wrong. I also thought that no one would ever get mad at me if I never tried to push my own agenda.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. All I ended up doing was frustrating my friends and family. They felt that I was distancing myself from them, making myself inaccessible. Just because I wouldn’t say what I really wanted. They weren’t asking me to agree with them. They wanted me to reveal myself by showing what I cared about.

I was especially bad about this when it came to my boyfriends and later my husbands. Shortly before I married my first husband, I became a Christian. And rather than making me wiser and more responsible, I became less so. That was because I didn’t ask God to help me make decisions; I asked my husband to. And because I was trying to be a “good” Christian, I thought I had to defer to my husband’s leadership and to me that meant that I was to let him make all the decisions.

That’s the tricky thing about seeking guidance. If we seek it from the wrong people, we can make a mess of our lives. Bad advice makes for bad decisions. And even if the person we’re conferring with has good motives and a certain amount of wisdom, he still may not give us advice that fits us.

I discovered this when I took a course in creative writing a few years ago. I’ve always wanted to write and thought I was good at it. In class one day I told my teacher that another teacher had said that my writing was “almost lyrical.” My writing teacher’s response was, “Yes, but that doesn’t mean it was good writing.”

I was scarred by that comment, to the point where my confidence in myself as a writer was almost completely eroded. As a result, I stopped writing for a while except for in my journals. It has taken me a lot of time and effort to build back my self-esteem, and I’m still not where I want to be.

So how do we protect ourselves from people who are not really wise or empathetic enough to give us good advice? And how do we make decisions for ourselves that are the “right” ones? And, even more, how

Published by

Ellen

Editor and chief writer at I, Muslimah and Femagination. Ellen also contributes regularly to Elevate Difference. She is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with two cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.