Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Monday, June 18, 2018

A couple of years ago, I added a new fashion statement to my life: a walking cane. My world has been invaded by a funky type of arthritis that strikes younger adults, and in my case, it arrived with a vengeance. I don’t like the restrictions it imposes on my life, but I’m dealing. Family and friends have been awesome, not to mention the fact that traffic stops abruptly when I cross the street. I’m even handling the pain reasonably well.


What drives me crazy, however, is the advice.



It is well-meaning, of course. Nevertheless, when I need advice, I ask for it. If I don’t ask, it is reasonable to assume that I’m not in the mood. Keep this in mind for future reference.


But this doesn’t stop people. As soon as they see my cane, they launch into impassioned suggestions on how to solve my problem. That’s before they know what’s wrong.


Much of the advice is contradictory. Sleep on a hard mattress. Sleep on a water bed. Try drug XYZ – it worked for me. Stay away from drug XYZ – it made my sister’s neighbor’s zebra terribly dizzy. Try acupuncture. Megavitamins. Liquid aloe. Exorcism (yes, I’m serious). Share my positive energy. Eat raisins soaked in gin. Eat dark chocolate (okay, I made that one up). And my personal favorite, try the drug I’m taking even though my condition is entirely different from yours.


The ridiculous thing is that not a single one of these advisors has ever heard of psoriatic arthritis.


Is it human nature to think we have all the answers, even if we don’t? Because we don’t.


Just pick up any tabloid magazine. “Ten Easy Steps to a Perfect BODY!” the headline blares. “Six Weeks to Six-Pack Abs!” “Use My Product for Longer Life, Longer Lashes and a Firmer Handshake!” “How to Catch a Guy in Ten Days.” “How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days.” “The Perfect Retirement Town.”


What I want to know is this: if everything is so easy, why are there still disaster dates? Why doesn’t everyone have a perfect body, perfect lashes and perfect retirement?


There is a simple answer: most problems are more complex than a one-size-fits-all approach can solve. Besides, we are not one-size-fits-all people. We’re unique. We were created by a God who does not make two snowflakes alike. Why, then do we expect two people to be alike?


So if you’re struggling with a grandchild who is addicted to drugs, for example, and the person giving advice does not understand the problem, the advice is not likely to help.


The same is true for the blaring magazine headlines. Let me fill you in on a secret: in many cases, the magazine writers know nothing about the subject matter. The guy who writes about how to have a perfect dating relationship may be clueless about women. What about the lady who dishes out advice on the perfect body or the latest fashions – how do you know she’s not a plump grandmother in a baggy dress?


Even friends may give advice that’s not helpful. How can your friend tell you how to handle a problem with a co-worker if he or she always works alone? Most advice just isn’t worth listening to.


So here’s my advice: Ignore all those advice columns. If you need help, ask someone whose life you respect. And remember the words of the apostle James, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him.”


Oops. Did I just give you advice that you didn’t ask for?


Regina Cram lives in Glastonbury and is a freelance writer.