By Santiago Rodriguez, S.J.
“Everyone’s a critic.” That is a common joke, a line made famous in shows such as I Love Lucy, Frasier, Satursday Night Live and even SpongeBob SquarePants. Everyone's a critic, just ask Statler and Waldorf from The Muppets Show. I use this line all the time, especially when I indulge in some sarcastic sensibility. At times, I amend it to: “Everyone’s an expert.” Everyone “knows” what’s best. We all want to speak our minds. We effortlessly share our two cents, and they usually end up being four dollars and change.
The world is full of experts. Google's algorithms are constantly ranking millions of pages with “expert” advice and a few pictures of cats. Facebook is full of advertisements and “Top Ten” lists. Twitter is crowded with #Hashtags, underage experts, and tech-savvy people. Everyone has a recipe for success. “Do you want the Good Life?” There are a myriad of podcasts to get us unstuck, loads of LinkedIn pages belonging to people with lots of credentials, and innumerable seminars that offer advice on any imaginable subject. These seminars are usually offered by adept professionals who provide career- coaching. There are also millions of blogs that are full of life lessons and autobiographical wisdom. As a blogger, social media user, and podcast consumer, I am part of the problem. Even as I write this entry, I brand myself an “expert”. I’m guilty as charged.
Life doesn’t come with an instructions manual, and many are trying to write one. Thousands of chapters are being written as you read this. Do you want to succeed in your business? Find your niche, be self-disciplined, and work hard at writing your business plan. Do you want to be healthy? Sleep more, drink more water and avoid genetically modified foods. Happiness? Sure, there is one for that too. Exercise more often, stay in the moment and don’t let your expectations rule you.
You get the point. There are a lot of advices out there. There are lots of “tried and tested” resources to help us improve our health, relationships and business. We hunger for these stuff. We all have problems and want quick solutions to all of them. The worst part about this is that these tips, resources and advice seem to work most of the time. They do the trick, if only for a short time. Sometimes, we even find the remedy for our malady. The problem is that we become addicted to our problems and to the quick fixes that we find online, in magazines and in wellness centres.
Many people have already caught up to this madness, and are tired of advice: “Don't take my advice. Or anyone's advice. Trust yourself. For good or for bad, happy or unhappy, it's your life, and what you do with it has always been entirely up to you” (Nicholas Sparks, The Best of Me). I can understand the frustration. Becoming human is about discovery, and not following a recipe. Being human is much more than an exchange of maladies for remedies. To be fully alive does not require an instruction manual. Yet, our lives only make sense within the context of a loving relationship.
We become more human each day, by paying attention to the Spirit of God. Don't take this as advice, but rather as an invitation. God is constantly calling you to be renewed, transformed and broken for the world. Don't take my word. Take the Word. Take the Word of God and read it. And pray with it. Be renewed. Be transformed. Let God bless you and pour you over for the sake of this world.
Stop worrying about solving all your problems. Take a break from Google. Stop searching for the solution to your latest mess. Unplug, disconnect, rest in the Lord. Listen to the Lord and let him teach you the only two questions that matter: “Who is Jesus Christ?” and “Who am I?”. The more you know who Jesus Christ is, the more you will know who you are. The better you understand yourself, the better you will understand who Jesus Christ is. And you will come to know the answer to those questions through your gifts and your shortfalls.
Stop seeking expert advice. Live, and search for the heart of Jesus. Nobody else can give you life in abundance. He has the words of eternal life. He is the only expert that matters. You and I will have good and bad days. There will be days filled with raging success, while other days will be a cataclysmic failure. It is all right to be lost. Don't rush to seek a way out. Make sure you get so lost, that you finally can get lost in him. And those days when you find yourself giving and seeking advice, remember to put it in the context of the Word that consecrates us to the world.