Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Offering Advice

In this post, a person anonymously announces that his wife is jealous of his interactions with a 20-year-old student. He seeks your advice---whoever you are.

Really, there is little more detail than just that, yet a cascade of responses offering advice and assigning blame follow.

What is amazing is the absolute willingness of many to use their imaginations to fill in details that were simply not offered and then to assign blame or to offer advice. There were some neutral offers of advice (such as to see a marriage counsellor to work through the issue), and there were a few who questioned whether or not there was any cause for the wife's jealousy. Most identified with the poster regarding "his wife's problem," only few questioned that there might be another side to the story at all, and only one person even questioned the fellow's sensitivity to his wife's jealousy in light of the fact that he posted his situation publicly to the internet looking for uninformed counsel.

This is a routine point of discussion for me. We human animals are accustomed to operating with less than complete or perfect information. We make the best decisions we can, based upon our own knowledge, patterned experience, and so forth. This, though, is precisely where we also dramatically fail to see things clearly. We often fail to distinguish between what is actually in front of us and what we project around the situation, failing to see what baggage we bring to the analysis.

Every situation is unique, and we rarely have all of the facts. If nothing else, until we learn even to clear our own minds and see what is real and what we are adding, would not the world be somewhat more tranquil place if we could at least hold our tongues?

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