When a 5 year-old who has just learned to tie his shoes says, “I can do this myself,” and rejects an offer of help, we laugh and admire the persistence of the child. But what do we do when someone we love is in desperate need of assistance and says the same thing? How do we respond to flailing and failing friends?
I think of a pastor I once knew who was struggling in many areas of life with a stress filled marriage and a shrinking congregation. He was clearly not doing well but refused to respond to my offers of assistance. He could do it on his own.
I think of a man diagnosed with bipolar disease, his case so severe that a few years ago he was standing shirtless on top of a moving car screaming at passersby. He was placed on a psychiatric hold and started on medications and returned to the real world. He soon stopped the medications, deciding on his own he did not need them. He has refused further psychiatric treatment and when confronted with the need to maintain treatment replied, “I can do this myself!”
I think of the alcoholic patient in his thirties, his liver so damaged by alcohol that a specialist gave him a 50% chance of living another 30 days. He stopped drinking for a while but refused to go to AA meetings or return to the office for follow up care. Every time I encouraged him to get more treatment he replied, “I can do this myself!”
In my life and profession stories such as these are commonplace. There is, it seems, an innate human tendency to overestimate our abilities and to trust ourselves above all others, even when the evidence of our foolishness is abundant.
The writer of Proverbs warns us against this, deeming it important enough to write it twice- “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” Pretty stern warning!
So what can we do to protect against falling into this trap of foolish self reliance? The Proverbs give us guidance-
"Plans go wrong for lack of advice;
many advisers bring success." Prov 15:22 NLT
We do well when we surround ourselves with wise people and train ourselves to listen! Take a moment to ask yourself who those people are in your life and make it a priority to seek their counsel regularly.
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