June 24, 2016

Best Advice From Barack Obama, Sheryl Sandberg, and Solomon

, operations manager, Adventist Review

Recently I’ve been thinking about advice.

Not the taking, but the giving.

It seems I have reached a place in life where one transitions into a new group of people: the “older generation,” with children and grandchildren. When that happens, your advice is treated with an increased sense of politeness, coupled with a reduced sense of application. Suggestions are alright, but your counsel seems less valuable.

I’m beginning to get an inkling for how Solomon’s counselors must have felt. Solomon’s son Rehoboam became Israel’s king at the age of 41, and he had a problem. His father’s counselors gave him advice. Then he went to his contemporaries for additional advice. He ended up listening to his peers, and it didn’t end well in that particular situation (1 Kings 12:1-16).

Why would Rehoboam go to his friends? He was probably used to getting counsel in the palace. His father was Solomon, after all. A quick review of Proverbs points to Solomon as the “father of advice.” Do you think Rehoboam heard a proverb every morning at breakfast? Maybe that’s why he turned to his friends instead.

But some of us still want to give advice — even though it may fall on deaf ears.

Some of the brightest minds in the United States used their commencement speeches this month to offer their best advice to graduating students at U.S. colleges and universities.

Here are the main quotes from nine well-known speakers:

1. “Be resilient in the face of adversity.” — Sheryl Sandberg, CEO, Facebook, speaking at University of California at Berkeley

2. “Success isn’t everything.” — Steve Harvey, comedian and television personality, speaking at Alabama State University in Montgomery

3. “Act on your passion.” — Barack Obama, U.S. president, speaking at Howard University in Washington D.C.

4. “Leave a legacy.” — Michelle Obama, U.S. firstlady, speaking at Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi

5. “Focus on the task at hand.” — Scott Kelly, retired astronaut, speaking at University of Houston in Texas

6. “Approach issues firsthand — not through a screen.” — Samantha Power, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, speaking at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut

7. “Don’t blindly follow all tracks and traditions.” — Peter Thiel,co-founder of Palantir and PayPal, speaking at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York

8. “Stand up to injustice.” — John Lewis, U.S. congressman, speaking at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri

9. “Listen to others and be willing to update your perspective.”— Madeleine Albright, former U.S. secretary of state, speaking at Scripps College in Claremont, California

Read also by Merle Poirier: Lot’s story contains a warning for you and me as Seventh-day Adventists

Contrast this advice with the words of Solomon in Proverbs 3. Maybe he also was a popular graduation speaker. Proverbs 3 is a perfect commencement address.

1. Never let loyalty and kindness leave you. (Proverbs 3:3-4)

2. Trust in the Lord with all your heart. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

3. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. (Proverbs 3:7-8)

4. Honor the Lord with your wealth. (Proverbs 3:9-10)

5. Don’t reject the Lord’s discipline. (Proverbs 3:11-12)

6. Joyful is the person who finds wisdom. (Proverbs 3:13-20)

7. Don’t lose sight of common sense and discernment. (Proverbs 3:21-26)

8. Do not withhold good from those who deserve it. (Proverbs 3:27-28)

9. Don’t envy violent people or copy their ways. (Proverbs 3:29-35)

Can you see a difference? The advice by the commencement speakers may be good, but one thing is missing — God.

We also must be careful, either as advice-givers or advice-seekers, to determine whether the counsel that we receive is of human origin or is from God. After all, Isaiah 9:6 calls Jesus the “Counselor” — the consummate Advisor.

I look forward to the final commencement speech where Jesus will be the speaker! The main quote that I am waiting to hear is: “Well done, good and faithful servant. … Enter into the joy of your Lord” (Matthew 25:21).

May we all seek to be wise advisors and good listeners so we may join that graduation class.