Don’t Tell Me What To Do!

When I was about 17, my parents strongly objected to some of my friends. Yes, they were my friends and my parents didn’t know them nearly as well as I did otherwise they would have agreed with my point of view. The more they protested about my spending time with them the more time I invested into our friendship. To tell the truth – and after all these years I can – even then I intuitively knew that they were right, but there was no way that I would ever do what they told me to do. My eagerness and need to be right and the power of making my own decisions was simply overwhelming. Sure enough, most of those friends turned out either not to be such good friends as I imagined. Several of them became alcoholics, or ended up in jail. And, yes, I admit my parents were right. They knew what was good for me and they acted as responsible parents to the best of their abilities.

The No-one-tells-me-what-to-do attitude is perfectly normal for teenagers anywhere. Their need to break away from their parents’ influence and prove themselves as able to be successful and responsible in the “real world” is healthy and necessary behavior for development. But as we mature, this attitude may present a significant barrier to healthy Christian relationships and a happy life.

First, this kind of rebellious behavior may result in pushing away anyone who comes close to you. This is how it usually works: You know from your own experience that it is very easy for you to see when others are about to do something that will not serve them well. If that person is a stranger or just an acquaintance you most likely will not open your mouth to stop them, and instead just offer a prayer. But, if it is someone you care about, you will do your utmost to provide Christian advice and point out the fallacy of his/her intended actions. So, you understand the motive of people who are trying to help.  However, whenever advice is offered to you, you often still become resistant to the suggestions of the people who care about you, and jump into don’t-tell-me-what-to-do modus operandi. In other words, you are digressing into a teenager. I certainly do not propose that you should accept all recommendations from everyone who cares about you. What I am suggesting is openness to the possibility and willingness to consider other points of view.  These Scriptures may help you see the wisdom of this suggestion:

“Plans succeed through good counsel…”  Proverbs 20:18

“Lazy people consider themselves smarter than seven wise counselors”   Proverbs 26:16

“The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.”    Proverbs 27:9

Resistance to do what people ask you to do (or not to do) is a usually a sign of insecurity, low self-esteem, inferiority complex, and such. The more often you exercise your “right” to do what you want, the more you alienate people around you and the more you push yourself in the direction of insecurity and low self-esteem. Choosing not to do what people ask you to do is just as much a free choice as accepting other people’s requests and suggestions. You have the right to change your mind. The choice is always yours. Be responsible for it. By refusing other people’s requests because you did not generate the idea, and thinking that somehow by accepting it you will lose power, is a victim behavior. The choice is always yours no matter which way you go. In fact, by accepting, or at least considering and being willing to discuss it in order to learn more about other people’s point of view, you show generosity, trust, respect, understanding and security in your own beliefs. Sounds pretty godly to me.

By all means, you should NOT go around doing what everyone tells you to do, but make wise choices that account for all available, thoughtful input. Sometimes even “blind trust”, although normally regarded as irresponsible, is acceptable. Think of pastors, professional advisors, teacher, friends and others that you trusted blindly, maybe with mixed results, which, by the way, will always be mixed, i.e., we will always make occasional mis­takes whether we do what we want, or if we listen to other’s advice. Mistakes are a part of life. Learn to live with them. But at least with the absence of the don’t-tell-me-what-to-do attitude you will have happier life, better relationships and open end for self-growth and being a responsible wise adult instead of a perpetual teenager.

Doing what others request from you and being a thoughtful and helpful person, will provide you with an opportunities for service, whether it is gladly bringing your spouse a cup of coffee*, caring for the sick and elderly, or anything in between. In Mark 10:45, Jesus said that He did not come to be served, but to serve, and in John 13:16 that a servant is not greater than his Master.  We are His servants, and thus it is clear that marriage in the Bible, and Christian life in general, is meant to be a process of seeking to out-serve each other!  In John 10:10 Jesus says that He has come that we might have life more abundantly!  And in Acts 20:35, the apostle Paul quotes Jesus as saying, “It is more blessed to give then to receive.”  Serving is part of this abundant life!  We grow by serving others. We serve ourselves by serving others. We are social animals. “Doing unto others what we want done to ourselves” (Matthew 7:12) is a mandate from Christ for peaceful relationships and peace the world. It is an attitude of peace and service, not confrontation. It is about care, contribution, fruitfulness, efficiency, effectiveness and self-growth from teenage-hood to adult­hood. Remember the choice is always yours.

“Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses.  I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make.  Oh, that you would choose life, that you and your descendants might live!”

Dueteronomy 30:19

“To be bound by our choices is not to have lost our freedom but to have exer­cised it.”

Robert Brault


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