I came across the seldom used expression, “Keeping your own counsel”, in an old book recently. A quick internet dictionary definition of this phrase is, “Say little or nothing about one’s opinions or intentions”. Though I have found this to be a very good thing to practice, it is seldom done anymore in this age of social media and text messages, much to everyone’s detriment. I want to take a look at the pros of following the sage advice of keeping things to yourself vs the modern habit of telling everyone about every thought you have.
Social Media Comment Damage
First lets look at the wreck that is social media and the damage it causes. I’m no different than most other people of this age, I too have had my time on social media. In my case, it was Facebook. At first it was fun to reconnect with people from the past and be able to see discussions on all sorts of subjects, but it quickly became too much. I realized that I really didn’t want to waste my time looking at photos of other people’s meals, I really wasn’t interested in all the comings and goings of the children of people I haven’t seen or spoken to in over 30 years, and I won’t even get into the nasty political cesspool during election periods! The worst part though, was the respect I lost for a lot of people while on Facebook. People who I thought were nice, respectable, sensible people were posting memes, photos and comments that let me know that I was quite wrong in my previous assessment of them. It was disappointing to say the least, and, in some cases, bad enough that I stopped associating with the person altogether.
I’m not saying that it was a negative thing that I was able to see people’s true colors. In a way, that was a real eye opener that gave me an opportunity to get away from bad company. (I eventually quit Facebook altogether because of other issues I have with it, but that has already been discussed in my earlier posts about social media.) The point I want to make about it in relation to this post is that these people were on Facebook making comments about things they would have been better off not commenting on. By feeling the need to comment on everything, they managed to show themselves as rude, ignorant, biased, racist, lazy, entitled, dishonest, immoral…etc. Most of these people were people I do not interact with personally in my life. Most were people from the past: former co-workers and classmates and the like. I would have preferred to have remembered them as I thought they were rather than learn what I did about them on social media. I wish they had kept their own counsel.
In the above examples, the careless commenting only cost these people some respect and a Facebook friend. Not really that big a deal in the larger picture of life. However, it can cause way more damage than that for some. A perfect example of this would be people who lose their job or don’t get hired for a position because the company looked up the person’s Facebook page and found posts they didn’t like and therefore didn’t want their company associated with, thus, the person loses a job. This is an example of folks who would have been better off keeping their own counsel!
Constant Arguing on Social Media
Another problem I had with social media commenting is the constant arguing. It’s as though people don’t understand that others can have different thoughts and opinions on things than they have without being “wrong”. I felt like I couldn’t make the simplest, most benign comment about something on my own Facebook page without getting someone who just had to come and comment on my post in an argumentative fashion. I’m not talking about comments about subjects like religion and politics that naturally draw a lot of disagreement. I’m talking about subjects that really shouldn’t be debatable. Apparently people are so bored that they have nothing better to do with their time but argue about inane subjects, or, perhaps their egos are so fragile, that they have to defend what they believe about any subject in order to feel good. I don’t know. But I quickly learned that, if I didn’t want to have to put up with this kind of thing, I needed to keep my own counsel.
Most People Don’t Care What You Think About Things
That leads to a third point about social media and commenting. Most people don’t really care what you think anyway. I’ve come to feel that social media is nothing but a series of stages that people perform on. They want you to come to their stage (page) and clap (hit the like button) for what they post, but most aren’t really interested in what is going on over on your stage. Not really. Unless, of course, they are bored and looking for a fight.
This translates into our personal lives as well. Fact is, unless someone actually asks you, chances are they aren’t really that interested in what you think about something. Most people are too busy trying to find their way through their own lives to worry that much about what it going on with yours. I have found that most people only ask about your opinions on things when they are looking for validation about something they believe or plan to do. In other words, they want to see if you agree with them or think their ideas are good. Otherwise, people don’t really care what you think or do as long as it doesn’t adversely affect them. That is not really a negative thing. It’s can be a positive thing because it frees you up to live your life in a way that suits you without having to worry about what other people think.
Getting Good Advice
I’m not saying that it is always wrong to share your opinion or ask someone else for theirs. There is a Biblical principle about getting counsel. One of the verses is:
Proverbs 12:15-The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.
Certainly, if you are planning on doing something big in your life, it never hurts to seek out advice from wise and experienced people and consider what they have to say about the subject. But, even that has its limits. You can seek out wise counsel and get two opposite opinions from the people. One says do this, the other says do that. One says do it this way. The other says do it that way. I guess you have to go for a tie breaker then! But seriously, ultimately you are going to have to make up your own mind anyway. Nobody can tell you what to think or do because no one really knows you or your situation completely. They don’t really know how serious you are or if you have the ability to do what you are wanting to do. We hardly know what we are capable of doing, so how can we expect other people to know?
It is true that some have been saved from hardship because somebody gave some good advice that prevented them from making a costly mistake. I do feel that wise counsel should be sought for major decisions, but I also feel that, after considering the advice you have been given, you have to make your own decision about whether or not to proceed and how to proceed. After all, you are the one who will be doing it, not someone else.
Sadly, there are many people have had their dreams dashed because they sought out too much counsel and/or refused to think for themselves. They wanted to do something but got talked out of it by people who were not really speaking for the seekers good, but were speaking from their own place of fear or jealousy. Because they didn’t have the nerve or ability to try something, or they didn’t want to see the seeker succeed, they talked the seeker out of trying. They were really speaking for their own situation, not that of the seeker. So, again, we need to consider any advice we get but then make up our own minds in the end.
I had a relative that wanted to go into business with a friend who was a fellow pilot. My relative wanted to buy an airplane and start training pilots for the civilian pilot program. This was in 1930’s when the aviation industry was still in its infancy. He discussed it with his family, who turned out to be against the idea. They told him there was “no future in aviation”. Long story short, he didn’t invest in it. His friend did and became a millionaire. My relative would have been much better off either keeping his own counsel and investing, or, after having given some thought to the advice he received, investing anyway. His life would have been much different.
But what about smaller decisions? Do we need to seek out counsel for everything we do? Of course not! And this is where keeping your own counsel really comes in. You do NOT have to share everything you think or want to do with other people. It is perfectly permissible to keep things to yourself and just do them. In fact, you would be better off doing so in many cases because anything you share with someone is going to get a reaction from them that could affect how you proceed.
Lets look at some examples.
You are an overweight adult who always wished you had learned ballet. You have no desire to be a professional dancer, but you would love to do it for exercise and enjoyment. You mention the possibility of taking ballet lessons to a friend who laughs and asks you if you are serious. When you assure her you are, she proceeds to tell you that it’s a bad idea because you are too fat, too old, too clumsy, the lessons are too expensive, exercise is a pain, driving to the studio will be a nuisance..etc. Under these circumstances, most people would probably give up the idea of learning ballet. Another dream dies.
Or lets say you are an artist as a hobby. You are trying something new with a piece and really like the way it s coming out, especially considering it is a very difficult skill you are trying. But an artist friend of yours comes over and you show him what you are doing. It isn’t his style, and he has never had the nerve to try it himself and is a little jealous that you are brave enough to attempt something so difficult, so he makes some negative or dismissive comments about it. Because you respect this person’s abilities, you feel embarrassed to have even tried to do this project and lose interest. Little did you know that your work was actually quite good and, had you continued to do this type of work, you would have become quite skilled at it…even being able to teach it to others as a side job. Instead, another talent/dream dies.
In both of these examples, the person would have been better off just doing what they wanted to do rather than sharing it with someone else. The reality is, though it is wonderful to find others that are as excited about a project as you are, most people are not going to be as excited about your project as you are, if at all. This will leave you feeling a bit deflated or may even put you off the idea altogether. I’ve been there. I’ve been all excited about starting something new and told others about it, only to be met with a, “That’s nice”, or worse. On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve had well meaning people get excited about what I was doing and then proceed to get involved themselves, giving too much unwanted advice and help that in no way supported or resembled what I wanted to do. It took the joy out of the project and caused a great deal of resentment. As a result of all of this, I’ve learned to keep my own counsel. That way my ideas and plans stay mine.
Discuss things With Others that will Be Affected By Your Plans
I do want to say this. If you are wanting to do something that will affect other people, you are not entitled to your own counsel. For instance, if you are married and want to quit work and go back to college, your spouse has a right to have a say in that decision since it will greatly affect them. For another example, if you have a plan but you want other people to pay for it in some way, whether with their time, effort or money, you are not entitled to your own counsel. A Youtuber I used to watch wanted a campervan to take trips around her country and make videos for her channel. Problem is, she wanted the viewers to pay for the campervan while she was not planning to contribute a dime towards it. Being offended, some of the viewers called her on this, telling her it was unreasonable and selfish to expect something like that. One of the other viewers got upset by this criticism and stated that the Youtuber, “had a right to her dream”. Well, no she doesn’t; not if someone else is being expected to pay for the dream. If she wants to fulfill that dream, SHE needs to pay for the dream because it is her dream. The viewers were never consulted on whether or not they wanted to see this dream happen and whether they were willing to pay money towards it. The Youtuber just assumed they would. That was a mistake.
Who Said We Have To Share Everything With Everyone?
I don’t know where the idea came from that we have to share every thought and every plan with other people. From what I’ve seen, we do it largely in an effort to get approval and validation. Problem is, we often get the exact opposite, and many hopes and dreams die on the vine as a result.
Truth is, the approval of others does not make our thoughts and plans better, or even okay. Many evil deeds have been done by people who approved of the plan to commit the deeds. A large group of people can be wrong, and one person standing alone can be right. No one may like your idea, yet it may still be a great idea! Simply put, we shouldn’t allow others to kill our dreams. We would be far better off keeping our own counsel rather than looking for the approval of others who may not share our vision.
Group Support…with a Catch
It is true that you can find groups of people that share your passion, especially with the internet and social media making it so easy to interact with others. You name it, there seems to be a group for it. Problem with that is, there can be a lot of competition and jealousy. Others may not like to see you succeed at something they have not found success with yet. People may insult your ideas or work out of simple jealousy but you may take it to heart and abandon your efforts. Worse, people may even steal your ideas and work. Though you may indeed find some encouragement and support in these groups, you need to use discretion.
People Let us Down, God Won’t
And lets end this by discussing some very important facts. People will let us down. Even those who love us most will let us down at times. We humans can’t be there for each other 100%, all of the time because we are all battling our own problems and concerns. Those who don’t love us have even less incentive to want to hear or bother with our hopes and dreams. But there is One Who is there for us all of the time. One who cares about everything that we care about and won’t dismiss something we are excited about. God is there. He sees us, He hears us. It certainly would be wise to go to Him in prayer with any ideas we have and ask for His guidance. Not only that, He is there for you to share things with. Tell Him about the trip you would like to take, the painting you want to do, the business you want to open, the book you want to write. I can guarantee you that you have His full attention. He is interested and He will encourage and help you along the way. So, though I think it wise to keep your own counsel rather than share every thought and plan with other people, that doesn’t mean we have to keep everything to ourselves. God is always there, ready and willing to listen. He already knows your every thought, He knows you better than you know yourself, and He loves you more than anyone else ever could. Who better to share your hopes and dreams with?