Mirrors are really amazing things. They reflect our image back to us. Sometimes it is a surprise….like when you look in the mirror and realize that at some point you gained weight and had not noticed. Or gained a few wrinkles. Or are most often sporting a frown. The images can be curious and discouraging. At other times you look in the mirror and notice you are smiling and are happy….and it lifts your heart and makes you smile even more.
Start to give advice to someone, and sometimes you find that a mirror appears. As you speak, it reflects that advice back to you. Sometimes the image that you see, isn’t quite what you expected.
I know what I believe, I know how I want to live, but sometimes I find that I forget to live in a way that is consistent with that framework. I’ve had a couple of ah-ha moments with regard to that lately. One time I had a friend who wanted some advice on a struggle they were having. I started telling them what I thought about the issue, started telling them how I thought they should approach the problem, and all of a sudden a voice inside my head said “Kim, listen to yourself.”
When I did, it almost knocked me over. What I was telling them was exactly what I needed to be applying to my own life. It was almost embarrassing! It didn’t change what I told them….I still felt it was true and good advice. But it made me think about my own problem and realize that I wasn’t living in a way that was consistent with advice I would give to a friend. I needed to befriend myself and consider that advice.
I’d like to tell you it made me run out and change everything! No, that didn’t happen. Well, in some ways it did. I changed the way I was addressing my problem over all. Nothing that would completely change my life overnight, but something that will lead to a solution in the long run. It wasn’t something that could only be handled one-dimensionally. I needed a plan that encompassed several different directions. And I needed a personal attitude change. I was obsessing over the problem….wondering who was to blame and feeling quite sorry for myself because I didn’t think I was at fault. Yeah OK….human….but it kept me working toward a solution and started bring out character flaws in me I would prefer to die.
Another incident happened a few days ago that also reflected my own advice back to me, but from a different angle. I was catching up with another young friend through Instant Message, one of the college guys that was part of our chase crew at a balloon festival I attended in Mexico in November. He had been struggling with several difficult issues the last time I had seen him. Back then we talked a lot then about making decisions for your life that would lead you to a happy life for the long term. Of course, that was advice I was giving him as a college student who was making some pretty big changes at a critical juncture. Not being at that point in my life, I didn’t think about any sort of self-application.
During the course of our catch-up conversation he asked how my life was. I told him it was good overall, but I was struggling in one particular area. The young whippersnapper reminded me of what I told him when we talked in Mexico. That you should be happy in all areas of your life, and if not happy you needed to make changes. He was right….and I had to laugh. He had listened to what I said and remembered and had applied it to his own life. Now he was turning the mirror back to me so I would do the same.
Often we think life-changing advice is for the young; but we never reach an age where it stops. A retirement from life, coasting through, is never appropriate (regardless of what our culture tells us.) We should always be purposeful people who live our lives well and with intention. We should be doing more than taking up space. In fact, the older we are the more responsibility we have to others, I think…..to help those who are younger make good decisions and learn from our own history. To encourage those of all ages. To make our mark on the world based on the wisdom we have gained. The life decisions we make are still important. The experience we have gained is important. And having the guts and the heart to offer advice is part of our purpose.
Recently I saw a series of answers to the question “When do you give advice?” Most people said “Only when asked.” I am grateful that, if answered truthfully, this would not be the answer of most of my friends and family members. Their answer would be more on the level of constantly! I don’t always take the advice given (as many of you know), but often I do. And I always (OK…often) consider it and appreciate it. We shouldn’t take it personally if people don’t take our advice and it shouldn’t keep us from giving it. It’s an odd kind of gift, but one that we shouldn’t force people to take. We do our part when we give people alternatives….options for solving life’s problems. I LOVE free will, and thank God for the ability to make my own decisions, but it’s also good to not have to figure out life all on your own. It’s good to have people who care enough to lend us their brains.
Mirrors are more than things that show our reflection. I remember when I was young using them to make things burn. (OK, maybe I have also done it since I have been older and it is still fun!) I don’t want to live a life that is lukewarm. I want one that is full and on fire. So as the reflection of my own words, ideas and beliefs come back for me to review, I need to take my own advice.
I used the word happy to describe how our life should be when I gave advice to my friend. I don’t actually think that is the best word to use. Things on the outside can impact happy. When I am more careful in my word choices, I think my advice to him and me and all of you is that as we make choices in our life we need to strive for joy. That thing that comes from inside out, regardless of our circumstances, fills us up like a cup of hot chocolate and warms us like a blanket. It is the contentment that comes from knowing that you have a purpose, and are fulfilling that purpose. Or looking in the mirror and seeing the face of God.