Listening to ourselves

Noah and Fred on the radiator
Noah and Fred on the radiator

From what I have observed in life, it’s the people who are (in that moment) most unhappy, that give the most advice to others….I see this pattern in myself also. Unhappy, frustrated people are chock-full of opinions and ideas about how others should live, change, and grow. I know a woman who buys boxes of self-help books and gives them to anyone and everyone in her life that she thinks could benefit from a little change of attitude, a new perspective, a more positive mind.

I know that she means well. She sees unhappiness, struggle, and frustration all around and so much wants to help. The thing that she doesn’t know is that all of these feelings are within her. She’s seeing/feeling on the outside, what is happening within her very own being.

She doesn’t yet know that when we change, our world (and everyone in it) changes too, and instead of frantically giving away books and advice in an attempt to make others be different than they are, she could drop down to the level of her own heart, make those inner changes, and become that change….then the ones that she so earnestly pursues, in an attempt to help them, would make their way to her door, unbidden.

It might be an interesting exercise this weekend to see how many times we want to give advice to someone (even in our minds) and notice how we are feeling in that moment, listen to what we are about to say (or suggest), and see if it applies to us.

A low self-love in the parent desires that his child should repeat his character and fortune…I suffer whenever I see that common sight of a parent or senior imposing his opinions, and way of thinking and being, on a young soul to which they are totally unfit. Cannot we let people be themselves, and enjoy life in their own way? You are trying to make another you. One’s enough.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

36 thoughts on “Listening to ourselves”

  1. Gosh, I never thought about those giving advice (lots of advice) might be unhappy…that is something I will think upon today. I guess I thought it was more of a superiority thing or “I know more because I have experienced it(whatever) before”.
    Any advice, Mary, for dealing with someone who shares too much advice and opinions????? I often see that trait in myself (I’m working on NOT doing it), but I sure know where I get it from!!! LOL
    Have a good weekend…Marian

  2. Thanks, Mary. My greatest suffering in life has come from unwanted advice and unkind comments meant “to help” versus physical suffering. I’ve had both kinds in abundance these last few weeks. I much prefer the gentle and loving moments of self-reflection this blog brings out in me. I have such gratitude to all of you who have held me in your hearts and prayers. My surgery has solved three health concerns and there are two more left to tackle. I’m getting stronger daily. Sending love and healthy thoughts back to you, kind souls all.

    1. I was glad to see your post this morning. I have kept you in prayer and am so glad you are doing better. Thanks for letting us know, and may your other concerns be successfully put to rest, too. May God be with you~

  3. I love the photo — just looking at it warms me up. What about when people come to you for advice (which I’m careful not to give, but rather say “what do YOU think?”) — I’m never sure what my role is. The quote from Emerson is terrific: I am always amazed at how timeless his writing is, and I often go back to “Self-Reliance” for a good self-talking to.

  4. Thanks, Mary , and I am smiling at the last line in the quote….”you are trying to make another you, ones enough”, that makes me laugh at MYSELF!

  5. Best reminder ever!!!! Love, love, love the quote at the end….have a wonderful weekend Mary….

  6. Mary – What a wonderful post! I burst out laughing at the end of the Emerson quote. Good advice – which I get to practice frequently with a 16 yr. old daughter in the house! Looking forward to the weekend exercise.

    1. Pam, one of my sisters cultivated the following practice when raising her teenagers: Instead of a stream of “advice”, she’d simply respond to their cockamamie proposals with a deadpan “Well. . . That’s an idea.” Somehow, that always brought them up short and made them think twice . . . or three times . . . without her having to tell them what they (really) already knew! I have found this actually works quite well with (supposed) adults, as well.

  7. Dear Mary…I love Emerson’s quote. A humorous and lovely reminder to look within before looking without. Thank you for your kind and gentle nudge this weekend to stay focused on cleansing, helping the person within myself first.

  8. Beautifully said, by both you and Emerson, Mary! It’s uncanny how often your posts seem to speak directly to me and what has been weighing on my mind at that moment, as if you can see directly into my heart (and mind). I love you and everyone here for that. Thank you!!!

  9. Christine Catherine, wishing you continued recovery for your next medical procedures…and Mary, I would not have ever dreamed of passing on advice to my friends but I’ve sure done this with my children growing up and now that they are adults and falling into poop occasionally (as I still do), it’s awfully hard to keep my beak taped, I can tell you but it does no good at all…we all have to walk our own path and learn our own lessons. I expect it will happen to me until the last shovelful of dirt is tossed on top of me.
    SandyP in Canada

  10. Excellent post, Mary. Gives a different angle to the phrase, “Think global, act local.”

  11. I’ve printed this post out and am walking with it this morning. SandyP, I laughed out loud when you said “keep my beak taped!” Speaking of beaks, I have to share something beautiful I saw yesterday. As I was walking by a cholla cactus on my walk, I heard many little squawks and squeaks coming from somewhere within the sharp barbed plant. I quietly approached and saw the nest and as I got closer, two tiny little heads popped out, with beaks WIDE OPEN, just begging to be fed. The entire inside of their mouths was a bright schoolbus yellow! What beauty in all of creation – I hope their Mama came back soon – these little guys were starving!

  12. That was just what I needed to hear today – I have a head full of advice I’m dying to give to my husband and grown daughters. Just like my own mother had lots of advice for me, which I automatically tuned out, just because it was advice. I’m pulling out the tape for my little chirpy beak right now!

  13. Boy, it’s hard to stop my chompers when I see something I know is wrong, but I did yesterday, just to choose peace, but whadda ya think of this? We went to a newish coffeehouse in our tiny town and there were 2 servers with dangling hair over the food. One’s braids practically dangled in the mayonnaise (sp?) and the other’s flayling hair wafted over the cookies and cakes and lattes. I wanted to wait until there were no customers & as gently as possible, remind them of health regulations.

  14. OOps–opportunity closed above. Anyway, then I thought I’d just call the Health Dep’t, but knowing our county, their next year’s visit prob. wouldn’t catch the violation. Then hubby came back from an errand and I knew he wouldn’t want me to say anything. Back in ’73-’75 in this burglette, I owned a restaurant and we tried to follow all the rules & prob. broke some of our own, but I’m still curious as to what I should have done. Maybe a gentle quiet word next time I go there, if I do…hmmm. In the spirit of Mary’s advice, maybe I should see what’s unattended in my own inner house!?

  15. Terrific post, Mary! I have been thinking about this a lot lately, because it is slowly dawning on me (I admit it, I’m a little slow on the uptake) that I have been (mentally, not “out loud” thank goodness) (A) advising others to do the things I’m not doing myself and (B) projecting my shortcomings onto others who don’t have them (if that makes any sense). For example, I find myself thinking I know what critical thoughts someone else is thinking when they’re not thinking that at all — only I am. I’m trying to catch myself at this, and put all these things on my own to-do list instead of someone else’s. It’s a little exhausting, to be honest . . .

  16. I’ve been having this discussion quite a bit lately – both with people who are giving advice all the time and those who are on the receiving end and are resentful. It brought to mind a quote from Dr. Abraham Low – founder of Recovery, International. For me it is quite an eye-opener.

    from: “Manage Your Fears, Manage Your Anger”

    “In every such situation where somebody steps in and takes over, he sows distrust. He hurts the feelings of others for the following reason. Everybody must have some important field in which he is permitted to take care of himself, to live without supervision. And that has been called the urge to self-determination. And if that urge to self-determination is thwarted, there results the situation where the person who is thwarted feels a fundamental right is denied him. That fundamental right is to use his own judgment, his own vigilance, his own capabilities. And if this right is denied, then there results what I told you already–distrust, resentment, ill feeling and therefore tenseness.”

    1. Mary Solomon, so glad I decided to look back and see if there were comments I had not yet read from Friday. Thank you for this quote – I kept thinking over the weekend that often when we find ourselves judging others or giving unwanted advice, we have to remember we are sitting on a throne that is not ours to sit on – just a picture that came to mind. Love to you! Susan

  17. Adore that last line! Thanks for the much needed laugh! And the entire blog, of course, as always. Enjoy your words so very much.

  18. Sometimes I tell one of my dogs exactly what I think about someone or a situation in detail and they listen very quietly and patiently, then look at me as if to say, “so then, what exactly is that supposed to mean?”
    That usually helps me to get over a self-important opinion pretty fast and refocus on myself.

  19. This is a great w/e project for me. I have many things(advice..uh suggestions) that my man needs to hear re: an important ongoing issue with us. It has come to a peak and now I’ll listen carefully to myself and my thoughts this w/e. I have no idea how this will all play out. I do know that I love him and don’t want to spend my days without him. But I must consider how far is far enough.
    Prayers to you Christine Catherine. Cindy

  20. Thank you Mary… a most wonderful Emerson quote…
    two Thich Nhat Hanh quotes came to mind …

    The spring rain is falling gently
    and the earth and the soil of my consciousness
    is penetrated by the rain.
    And the seed deep within me
    now has a chance to be penetrated by the rain and to smile, sprouting.

    In our consciousness, there are many negative seeds and also many positive seeds. The practice is to avoid watering the negative seeds, and to identify and water the positive seeds every day.

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