HML #007 – Seeking Wise Counsel to Build a Healthy Marriage – Part 1

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What was the inspiration for this series?

I usually like to give the background of a podcast to put the message in some form of context. There were two things that inspired this series. One of our listeners had mentioned that she was on her third and her new husband on his second marriage and they had wanted to make their marriage work. She mentioned that she would like to get her husband listening to the podcast, but was not sure how. This got us thinking on this subject, but we did not have the time to really dig into it at the time she asked it.

Then, Andy Stanley’s recent series, Ask It, brought up an interesting point when it came to seeking the counsel of others. One of the thrusts of his message was don’t let your pride prevent you from listening to wise counsel.

At the end of the message, Tim (from my men’s group was sitting behind me) had commented that I probably see pride impacting people every day in my divorce practice, but oddly enough, I was not thinking about that. I was thinking about how I can apply the wisdom of the message to myself to make sure that I did not let pride bring me down. I was thinking about triggers to put in place to prevent pride from seeping in and blocking the wise counsel of others.

Tim’s comment, however, did bring back a flood of memories about former clients that have argued with me about the legal system and how their case is going to turn out, even though they have never been through a divorce themselves. Meanwhile, I, as a divorce lawyer, have been through thousands of divorces. They will often discount my advice because their emotions or their pride gets in the way. When pride gets in the way, they think that they had nothing to do with the demise of their marriage.

So, we began to think, what would be good advice to those who wish to improve their lives and marriages by seeking the wise counsel of others. We started to think about the why’s, when’s, what’s, and how’s associated with seeking out the advice of others to help grow your marriage or deal with a difficult situation in your marriage. With those thoughts, this Four Part Series was born.

Why four parts?

Seeking the counsel of others can be as harmful as it is helpful. We did not want to pack a ton of information into a single hour and not explore each aspect deep enough. We also don’t want people making the wrong decisions when it comes to seeking the advice of others. In my divorce practice, I have seen people clearly ignore problems, not seek the wise counsel of others, and then end up in my office. Then, there are others who have sought “counsel,” but the wrong kind. They either seek the counsel of a co-worker (and that “counsel” ultimately leads to an adulterous relationships), or they seek the counsel of people who are not in a good place to give wise counsel. In all these situations, the ultimate result is a divorce.

Part 1 – Why should you seek out the wise advice of others?

We are going to address this from two angles – the wisdom of the Ages and what modern science has shown us that actually supports the wisdom of the Ages.

Wisdom of the Ages

If you go back almost 3000 years ago, you will find King Solomon, who ruled over Israel from about 970 to 931 BC. He is widely considered one of, if not, the wisest man that ever lived. Kings from around the known world send emissaries with tremendous amounts of wealth to pay King Solomon for his wisdom. In many respects, he built an incredible amount of wealth from his wisdom. He wrote down some of his wisdom and shared it with us in Proverbs. Despite his incredible wisdom, he believed that seeking out the wise counsel of others was critical for the wise man. He wrote a number of passages in Proverbs on this very issue. Below is what he shared in Proverbs.

Proverbs 12:15 – The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, But a wise man is he who listens to counsel.
Proverbs 11:14 – Where there is no guidance the people fall, But in abundance of counselors there is victory.
Proverbs 13:10 – Through insolence comes nothing but strife, But wisdom is with those who receive counsel.
Proverbs 19:20 – Listen to counsel and accept discipline, That you may be wise the rest of your days.
Proverbs 24:6 – For by wise guidance you will wage war, And in abundance of counselors there is victory.
Proverbs 27:9 – Oil and perfume make the heart glad, So a man’s counsel is sweet to his friend.
Proverbs 15:31-33 – He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof Will dwell among the wise. He who neglects discipline despises himself, But he who listens to reproof acquires understanding. The fear of the LORD is the instruction for wisdom, And before honor comes humility.

The irony of the above is that at one point in his life his Pride began to take over, and he stopped taking his own advice. His pride prevented him from seeking out the wise counsel of others, and the nation of Israel suffered as a result. While Israel arguable hit its height of glory during his reign, the end of his reign also began its downfall.

Even if you are not a religious person, you will still find others throughout history giving the same advice. For example:

  • “Search well and be wise, nor believe that self-willed pride will ever be better than good counsel.” Aeschylus – Greek playwright and deep religious thinker from before 500BC –
  • “Consult your friend on all things, especially on those which respect yourself. His counsel may then be useful where your own self-love might impair your judgment.” Lucius Annaeus Seneca – 4 BC – AD 65. He was a Roman Stoic philosopher, statesman, dramatist, and in one work humorist, of the Silver Age of Latin literature.
  • “There is as much difference between the counsel that a friend giveth, and that a man giveth himself, as there is between the counsel of a friend and of a flatterer. For there is no such flatterer as is a man’s self.” Lord Francis Bacon – January 1561 – 9 April 1626, He was an English philosopher, statesman, scientist, jurist, orator, essayist, and author. He served both as Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England. After his death, he remained extremely influential through his works, especially as philosophical advocate and practitioner of the scientific method during the scientific revolution.

I could go on with more examples from famous leaders in the past 300 years, but I think you get the point.

Modern Science

Flash-forward to today – Modern science has revealed many things that only support the wisdom of King Solomon some 3000 years ago.

In a recent episode of the show “Brain Games,” they gave real life examples (through games) of how our bodies handle stressful situations through bio-chemical reactions. In stressful situations, our brain can cause the release of cortisol and adrenaline which shuts off learning and short term memory sections of the brain. Under many circumstances, our brain cannot distinguish between someone yelling at us and a lion roaring at us. The bodies’ response to the stress of the situation is the same. As a result, the reasoning section of our brain can temporarily shut down. What this means is that if you are dealing with a stressful situation, you brain may be generating hormones that are limiting your ability to make a wise decision.

I recently read an interesting article called “What is Neuro-Literacy and Why Should You Care?” published in Family Lawyer Magazine and written by Pauline H. Tesler. The subtitle to her article was New brain science, positive psychology and neuroeconomics can transform your work in conflict resolution. To summarize the lengthy article, she said that there is a growing body of evidence that carried potentially revolutionary implications for our day to day work as lawyers, depicting a brain that is driven not by reason, but by emotion. Again, I am sure that everyone reading this can reflect back on a time when they made a rash ‘emotional and impulsive’ decision that they wish they had not. If they had decided to step back from the situation, they would have made a wiser choice.

One last example comes from Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. During his course, we learned that scientists have been studying the brain’s responses to certain purchases using an MRI. When people purchased items with a credit card, the pleasure centers of the brain actually registered. When people purchased items with cash, the pain centers of the brain actually registered in the thought process. What does this show us? Emotion influences our buying decisions possibly more than rational thought.

What does all this mean?

Ok, so some of you might be saying, “I understand that a bunch of dead, very wise men are telling me to seek wise counsel and modern science is telling me that my decisions are often controlled or influenced by ancient, bio-chemical responses, so what does that mean for me and my marriage. Are you saying that I should seek out wise counsel just because a bunch of wise, dead people told me to?”

Not exactly. Let me summarize with leaving you three simple reasons why you should seek wise counsel to help build a healthy marriage:

1. Wise Counsel is not blinded by your Pride.
Pride blinds us. All too often, pride can put us in a position that we are blinded by what is really happening around us. We tell ourselves that “I know what I am doing and I don’t need anyone else to tell me something that I don’t already know,” or “I am not doing anything wrong. This situation is all because my Wife will not (fill in blank). . . or my Husband refuses to (fill in blank) . . . “ Pride prevents you from self-examining your life and your marriage. Wise counsel can shine a light on that pride and open your eyes to potential problems you may be having in your relationship with your spouse. Your counsel will not be blinded by your pride.

2. Wise counsel does not get clouded by your emotions.
a. Emotion clouds our thinking.
b. Sorrow, depression, hate, anger will cloud your thinking. Those emotions can be caused by any number of things either in the marriage or outside the marriage, but they all will negatively impact your marriage.
c. Wise counsel is like a Lighthouse in the fog of emotion that makes it difficult to think.

3. Wise counsel is not overcome by your stress
a. Stress can prevent us from thinking or self-evaluating
b. That stress can come from inside the relationship or outside the relationship. Let’s say you are going through a rough time at work, and you bring that home to the children and your spouse. Your Wife points it out and you just ignore her or lash out at her. For whatever reason, you have a tough time accepting what is obvious to those around you.
c. Wise counsel can help you cope with the stress so it does not impact your relationship with your spouse.

Stay tuned for Part 2

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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